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•yv-/ I 









"O, that we might read the mind of a murderer!" 


In the ensuing pages I have dealt with a group 
of "unfinished" murder cases, all of which have 
occurred during the last few years. By unfinished 
I mean, as doubtless will be readily understood, 
cases where the law has gone unsatisfied. I prefer 
the word "unfinished" to that of "unsolved", 
which such cases sometimes certainly are nDt. 

It is true that in the remarkable Wallace case, 
as in the equally remarkable case of Dr. Knowles, 
there was a conviction. In both cases, however, 
the convictions were subsequently quashed and 
the accused went free. Thus neither of these 
cases can be said, in the fullest sense of the word, 
to have been finished, since nobody paid the 
ultimate legal penalty for the crime. 

In the Wallace case I have been enabled, through 
the courtesy of the proprietors and Editor of 
the Liverpool Post, to quote freely from the very 
excellent report of the trial which appeared in 
that journal. 

In the case of Dr. Knowles the appellant 
had the invaluable assistance of Mr. D. N. 
Pritt, K.C., who appeared for him when the 
appeal case came before the Privy Council, 
and who was instrumental in procuring the 



ultimate release of Dr. Knowles. One may 
here also allude to the interesting fact that 
since then Mr. Pritt has again appeared before 
the Privy Council, this time representing three 
prisoners who had escaped from the much 
advertised and notorious French penal settle- 
ment known as Devil's Island. Again Mr. Pritt 
was successful in securing the release of his 

I have been fortunate enough to obtain access, 
through an exclusive source, to the printed details 
of the so-called trial of Dr. Knowles in Africa, by 
means of which I have been enabled to present 
a comparatively comprehensive narrative of this 
exceptional case. I commend the details of the 
proceedings in Africa to the careful attention of 
those of my readers whose knowledge of the 
administration of British criminal law is confined 
to this country, and who are, upon occasion, 
inclined to be somewhat captious about it. 

As I did in a former volume, I invite the reader 
to work out his own solutions of the mysteries 
presented by the various cases dealt with, although 
in each instance I have endeavoured to give him 
a "lead". 

In my previous work, CJ.D., I am reminded 
by several correspondents that I have gone astray 
on several points of English and Scots criminal 
law. The subject of law, either criminal or common, 
I need scarcely point out, is a very complicated 
and technical one, and therefore somewhat difficult 


for a mere layman to handle. So that I am not 
myself very much surprised, although not at all 
gratified, to learn that I have succeeded in achieving 
several "slips." All my correctors are qualified 
lawyers and I am taking this, the first available 
opportunity, of giving their corrections publicity 
and so putting myself right with my readers 

I have stated, what I then believed to be a 
fact, that the Scots third verdict of "Not Proven" 
was equivalent to our Coroner's "open" verdict, 
and that in the event of additional evidence coming 
to light, the accused man might be re-arrested 
and again put upon his trial. I have also described 
how in Scotland a prisoner is subjected to a severe 
cross-examination by the Procurator-Fiscal in the 
process of his being called upon to "emit a 

Mr. Roland Waugh, the Procurator-Fiscal of 
Dunfermline, has written and corrected me on 
these two points in the following words: "Not for 
many years has a Scots prisoner been subjected 
to a 'gruelling interrogation', as I think you put 
it. As a matter of fact, since 1887 all prisoners 
are entitled to a private interview with a law 
agent before declaration, and to have their law 
agent (solicitor) present at the examination. In 
practice the declaration, which is written on the 
form of which I enclose a sample, almost invariably 
ended, after the stock queries, 'I have nothing to 
say in regard to the charge of which has 


been read over to me '. Since the passing of the 
Summary Jurisdiction (Scotland) Act, 1908, a 
declaration is not now essential in any shape, and 
is very seldom used. 

"Our 'Not Proven' verdict does not give 
opportunity for a second trial. Once a case has 
been brought to proof, the accused has 'tholed 
his assize' and cannot be retried." 

Mr. Waugh enclosed a copy of the Declaration 
form and of the form of "Petition". 

I also received a long letter from Mr. James 
Hyslop, of the firm of solicitors, Messrs. J. & C. M. 
Hyslop, of Dumfries, dealing with these same 
points. It gives all the law on the subjects and is 
far too long to quote here, nor would it be necessary, 
since the ultimate results are the same as those 
described by Mr. Waugh. Mr. Hyslop points 
out that a prisoner can and sometimes does object 
to making a declaration, and that when an examina- 
tion occurs it is conducted by the Sheriff in the 
presence of the Procurator-Fiscal. 

I am much indebted to my correspondents for 
the trouble they have taken in the matter. 

In dealing with the Goddard case I appear to 
have created a wrong impression in the mind of 
at least one of my readers. This was Sir Maurice 
Gwyer, Treasury Solicitor, of Storey's Gate, who 
has written me about it. I have not space to do 
more than present a resume of my correspondent's 
letter, which I do as follows: 

In dealing with the civil proceedings, which 


were brought by the Crown for the purpose of 
recovering the moneys found in the possession of 
ex-Sgt. Goddard, I said, "The law has now 
settled the matter in favour of Goddard". Sir 
Maurice Gwyer denies this, and proceeds to point 
out that the learned Judge (Mr. Justice Rowlatt) 
ruled that moneys in the form of bribes, received 
by a member of the Metropolitan Police, might 
be recovered by the Crown, "on the general 
common law principle that an employer can 
demand that his servant or agent hands over to 
him all moneys received by the servant or agent 
in the course of his service or agency. . . ." 

I agree. Sir Maurice has evidently misunder- 
stood me. I was, perhaps, not too happy in the 
wording of the paragraph quoted. I meant to 
infer that the case was decided in favour of Goddard. 
Let me be a little more explicit. As my correspond- 
ent points out, the Judge, after hearing a lengthy 
argument from Sir Leslie Scott on behalf of the 
defendant, gave judgment for the Crown for a 
portion of the money, which they had proved had 
been received by Goddard by way of bribes, and 
for Goddard for the remainder of the money (the 
bulk of it) as his lordship maintained that the 
Crown had failed to show that this sum also was 
received by the defendant in the way of bribery. 
Since the defendant was allowed to retain the 
bulk of the money I thought, and still think, I 
was justified in stating that the case was decided 
in his favour. 


But I did not wish to infer, as Sir Maurice 
Gwyer seems to think I meant, that the general 
law of Bribery and Corruption was in any way 
involved in this ruling. It had, in fact, no con- 
nection with it except to uphold it. 

I think this should remove all doubt or mis- 
understanding in the matter. I further cordially 
agree with my correspondent when he adds that 
it is very important that no countenance should 
be given to the idea that public servants may take 
bribes legally and with impunity. The Goddard 
case, he rightly points out, is, so far as the Metro- 
politan Police is concerned, a direct authority to 
the contrary. In this connection I should like to 
point out that, in the volume referred to, I drew 
attention to the difficulties the authorities had to 
deal with in regard to the moral aspect of the 

In my book I also made reference, quoting Sir 
Archibald Bodkin at the time, to the legal slang 
term of "soup", and I have apparently given a 
wrong impression of its meaning, as Sir Maurice 
Gwyer points out in the following interesting 
manner : 

" I do not think that ' soup' has ever been another 
name for a ' dock' brief. When I attended Criminal 
Courts many years ago in London and on Circuit, 
'soups' were briefs in minor police prosecutions, 
which were distributed among members of the 
Sessions Bar Mess, in order of seniority. I suppose 
that in London a 'soup' would come round to a 


member of the Mess once in every four or five 
weeks, and it was said that it was from them 
that some of the older members of the Mess drew 
their entire income. 'Soups' were always prosecu- 
tions, 'dock' briefs were, and are, always defences, 
so called because the prisoner instructs Counsel 
from the dock without the intervention of a 

I repeat that I am much indebted to my several 
correspondents for their kindly and painstaking 
intervention and I have given their valuable 
corrections the fullest and earliest publication 
available to me, as all suggested might be done. 

I must apologise to my readers for keeping them 
so long in the perusal of this Foreword (supposing 
they have been perusing it, which they may very 
well not have been doing) which I will now proceed 
to close with these final words: 

The cases which I have included in my varied 
survey do not constitute the whole of the cases of the 
kind which have occurred during the period of time 
which they cover. I have merely made a selection 
from the whole number. Cases of mysterious 
murder appear to be occurring with more and 
more frequency — are being added to as I write — 
a fact which may justifiably be rather alarming to 
most people. In the vast continent of America, 
of course, such statistics would be regarded as 
gratifying rather than disturbing. But in this small 
island, unused to the criminal activity of even a 
Chicago, they can scarcely be expected to be 



received with complacency. They, however, afford 
plenty of material for the chroniclers of such events, 
and as I happen to be one of that ilk, I shall say 
no more about it. Also there is no need to "shoot" 
the police, as they are doing their best. 



I. The Pistol Shot .... i 

(The Case of Dr. Benjamin Knowles, Ashanti, 

II. The Silent Hour .... 38 

(The Case of Louisa Maud Steele, Blackheath, 
January, 1931.) 

III. The Still Tongue .... 60 

(The Case of Margery Wren, Ramsgate, 
September, 1930.) 

IV. The Body in the Ditch ... 76 

(The Case of Agnes Kesson, Epsom, June, 

V. The Burned Out Motor Car . . 106 

(The Case of Evelyn Foster, Otterburn, 
January, 1931.) 

VI. The Late Caller . . . .128 

(The Case of Edward Creed, Bayswater, 
July, 1926.) 

VII. The Paying Guest . . . • ^39 

(The Case of Hilary Rougier, Woking, 
August, 1926.) 

VIII. The Secret of the Bungalow . . 157 

(The Case of Thomas Henry Jackson, 
February, 1929.) 





IX. The Clue of the Telephone Message 

(The Case of William Herbert Wallace, 
Liverpool, January, 1931.) 

X. The Dead Driver .... 

(The Case of Samuel Fell Wilson, Warsop, 
September, 1930.) 









{The Case of Dr. Benjamin Knowles, Ashanti, 1928.) 


In the year 1928 Dr. Benjamin Knowles, a 
medical officer in the employment of the Adminis- 
tration of the Colony of Ashanti, was living with 
his wife, who had formerly been an actress in this 
country, and known under the name of Madge 
Clifton, at a place called Bekwai, distant about 
twenty miles from Kumasi, in the Crown Colony 
of the Gold Coast. 

Dr. Knowles had been serving there for some 
years, occasionally going on circuit, as it were, 
or as it was called there, "on tour". The nearest 
medical man to Bekwai was resident at Kumasi. 
Needless to explain that it was very hot there, so hot, 
in fact, sometimes that the walls of the house were 
too hot to touch. This was doubtless chiefly the 
cause of the Government officials of the district — or 
at all events some of them — leading a somewhat 


hectic existence, in which drink and sometimes drugs 
played a prominent part. 

On Saturday, October 20th, 1928, Mr. and Mrs. 
Knowles gave a luncheon party at their bungalow 
at Bekwai, at which there were present as guests 
Mr. Mangin, District Commissioner, Mr. Bradfield, 
Inspector of Government Works, Agent for Millers 
Limited, Bekwai. The luncheon party was a merry 
affair, and there was much laughing and joking. 
There was also, of course, plenty to drink, although 
it is not suggested that there was necessarily excessive 
drinking. By 2.30 all the guests had departed. 

Adjoining the dining-room was the bedroom. 
In it and side by side were two separate bedsteads, 
both being covered, canopy-wise, with a mosquito 
net. After the guests had departed. Dr. Knowles 
went into the bedroom and lay down upon one of 
the beds. He was followed a little later by his 
wife. By then the doctor was in a drowsy con- 
dition, half asleep and half awake. The entrance of 
his wife into the bedroom aroused him and some 
conversation between the two ensued. 

At that time two native servants, or "boys", were 
busy preparing tea on the verandah, having been 
told to do so by Dr. Knowles. One of these servants 
was named Sampson, and had been in the employ- 
ment of Dr. Knowles about three weeks only. His 
position was that of "steward boy". He had 
previously served the lunch, and after lunch had 
gone into the town, returning for tea by a train 
which came through from Sekondi to Kumasi. As 


he was preparing the tea he heard "something burst 
inside the bedroom like a gun". Then he heard 
Mrs. Knowles cry out, "Ah! Ah! Ah!" Then he 
said that he heard his master say, " Show me". The 
other servant, named Bondo Fra Fra, also heard the 
report, which he described as a "ping". Sampson 
became alarmed, and told his fellow servant that he 
should go and get assistance. He thereupon ran to 
the house of the District Commissioner, Mr. Mangin. 
He saw the Commissioner's boys and told them he 
wanted to see their master. Mr. Mangin appeared 
from the bathroom, and Sampson said to him, 
"Will you please come and see what is inside 
bungalow". He then returned to Dr. Knowles' 

Mr. Mangin then got into his car and drove over 
to the bungalow of Dr. Knowles. He stopped out- 
side the front door and called to the doctor. He 
then saw Knowles walk from the dining-room to 
the bedroom. He was naked. He subsequently 
emerged from the bedroom with a towel wound 
round him, and came out on to the steps. He apolo- 
gised for disturbing the doctor, but explained that 
he had heard that a shot had been heard, and that 
Mrs. Knowles had also been heard to scream. He 
then asked if there had been an accident, and if he 
could be of any assistance. The doctor appeared to 
be rather surprised and annoyed, and said there 
was no cause for alarm and that things were "all 
right". The Commissioner, being satisfied with this 
assurance, returned to his own bungalow. 


Subsequently the news of the mysterious happen- 
ing at the bungalow of Dr. Knowles reached the 
ears of a surgeon specialist named Howard Walter 
Gush, stationed at Kumasi. As a result of what he 
heard Dr. Gush got into his car and motored over 
to Bekwai. He entered Dr. Knowles' bungalow. 
He called for Dr. Knowles and the doctor asked who 
it was. Dr. Gush gave his name, and Knowles then 
came out of his bedroom. Dr. Gush then apologised 
for his sudden intrusion. 

Knowles was dressed in pyjamas, and appeared 
to Dr. Gush very confused and physically extremely 
weak. He appeared to be suffering from the effects 
of alcohol, that is to say, the old effects. Dr. Knowles 
asked his visitor to sit down, and they both sat. 

"I have been told there has been an accident," 
observed Dr. Gush. 

"Who told you?" asked Knowles. 

"Mr. Applegate, the Provincial Commissioner," 
replied Mr. Gush. 

"There has been a domestic fracas," explained 

"What happened?" said Gush. 

Dr. Knowles then bared his left leg and showed 
that it was covered with bruises. He said that his 
wife had flogged him with an Indian club. He also 
said that she had been nagging him the previous 
afternoon, and that he told her that if she did not 
leave the room he would put a bullet in her. Dr. 
Gush then asked if he might see Mrs. Knowles. Dr. 
Knowles then went into the bedroom with the 


ostensible purpose of asking his wife, and Gush 
heard Mrs. Knowles say, "I would like to see Dr. 

Both men then went into the bedroom. Dr. Gush 
saw Mrs. Knowles standing at the foot of one of the 
beds in her nightdress. He asked if he might 
examine the wounds. He also asked Mrs. Knowles 
how the accident had happened. The lady then 
explained that she had been examining her hus- 
band's revolver, which had recently been cleaned 
by the police, that she put the revolver down on a 
chair and shortly after sat upon it. She then tried to 
remove it from beneath her, but the open-work sleeve 
of her dress caught in the trigger and the weapon 
went off. 

"Speak the truth," said Dr. Knowles. 

"Shut up, Benjy," replied Mrs. Knowles. "You 
don't know what you are talking about." 

To this observation Dr. Knowles made no reply. 

Dr. Gush then proceeded to examine the wounds. 
He found one of them in the left buttock, about the 
size of a threepenny bit, with marks of dried blood 
about the wound. The second wound was on the 
right side of the abdomen and was about the size 
of a sixpenny piece. The former was the entry 
wound and the latter the exit wound. There was 
blood between the legs. Dr. Gush said that it would 
be necessary that Mrs. Knowles should go into 
hospital at Kumasi, and both Mr. and Mrs. Knowles 
agreed to this. He then suggested that Mrs. Knowles 
should first have a warm bath. At this stage of the 


interview Dr. Knowles was sitting in a wicker chair 
near the door, and when Dr. Gush asked him to 
move as he, Dr. Gush, wished to go out to his car. Dr. 
Knowles made no response. Dr. Gush then Hfted the 
chair with Knowles in it and put him out of the way. 
Dr. Gush then gave one of the boys instructions 
to prepare a warm bath for Mrs. Knowles, and 
went across to the bungalow of the District Com- 
missioner, which was situated quite near, and out- 
side which he had left his car. Having had a chat 
with the Commissioner, he took his car back to Dr. 
Knowles' bungalow. By that time Mrs. Knowles 
was ready dressed to depart. Dr. Gush then asked 
Knowles for the revolver, and Knowles replied that 
he did not know where it was. Mrs. Knowles, how- 
ever, said that it was in a uniform case, the key of 
which she produced from her bag. Dr. Gush then 
went and opened the case, in which he found the 
revolver, on top of some clothes. He did not see 
any holster. He unloaded the revolver, and found 
that there were five live cartridges in it and one 
empty case. The cartridges were all similar. The 
revolver was a Webly. Dr. Gush then wrapped the 
revolver and the cartridges in a towel and put them 
in his pocket. The following day he handed them 
over to Major Smith, the Assistant Commissioner 
of Police. He took Mrs. Knowles to the Colonial 
Hospital at Kumasi, and there treated her wounds. 
He found that they had already been treated with 
iodine. That, with rest, would be the correct 


Dr. Gush realised at once that the wound was a 
serious one, that, in fact, it was almost impossible 
that Mrs. Knowles could recover. So serious was 
her condition that it was deemed advisable to take a 
declaration from her, and on the 23rd, in the 
presence of the police and Dr. Knowles, the following 
declaration was obtained from the patient, being 
sworn on a Bible: 

"There was a revolver standing or lying on a 
bookcase. It had been cleaned. I took it up and 
put it on the table near the bed. The boy came 
with the afternoon tea. I put the revolver carelessly 
on the chair, near the bed. I took a cup of tea, 
sitting on the chair. I sat on the gun. As I got up 
it caught in my dress with a lace frill. I tried to take 
it away from the lace, and suddenly it went off, the 
bullet passing through my leg. I did not realise I 
was shot until I saw blood running from my leg. I 
am not in fear of death." 

It was signed by Mrs. Knowles and witnessed by 
Mr. E. A. Burner, District Commissioner for 
Ashanti, who asked Dr. Knowles if he wished to put 
any questions. Dr. Knowles replied that he did not. 

Mr. Burner also issued the following attestations : 
"I certify that this statement contains accurately 
the whole of the statement made by Harriet Louise 
Knowles, given to me in the Colonial Hospital, 
Kumasi, on the 22nd day of October, 1928. My 
reason for taking this statement is that I have reason 


to believe that H. L. Knowles is a dying woman, 
from wounds received. 

"I hereby certify that statement was given to me 
on oath in the presence of Dr. B. Knowles and Major 
Smith, A.C.P." 

Mrs. Knowles died shortly after, on October 22nd. 

Before the taking of the dying declaration of Mrs. 
Knowles, Major H. E. Smith, of His Majesty's 
Reserve of Officers, Acting Commissioner of Police, 
Ashanti, accompanied by Mr. Morris, Assistant 
Commissioner of Police, paid a visit to the bungalow 
of Dr. Knowles at Bekwai. His mission was ostensi- 
bly one of close investigation. Leaving Mr. Morris 
in the dressing-room. Major Smith went into the 
bedroom. He observed the following details. As 
has already been described, there were two beds, 
standing side by side, with a mosquito net covering 
both. Facing him as he went in from the lounge, 
there was a wicker chair standing in front of a cup- 
board. Between the dressing-table and the cupboard 
was another wicker chair. These were the only 
chairs in the room. By the side of the bed nearest 
the door was a small deal table. It had no cloth on 
it and books and papers were standing on the top. 
On the far corner, away from the bed, there 
appeared to be the impression of the butt of the 
palm of the hand in blood. The mosquito net was 
down, and lying on the bed nearest the door. 

Major Smith knew Dr. Knowles. He found him 
lying on one of the beds in his pyjamas, reading a 


piece of paper. It was an ordinary letter con- 
nected with his professional duties. He said to 
Knowlcs : 

"I am Harry Edmonstone Smith, a police officer, 
and I am going to detain you on suspicion of having 
caused grievous harm to Mrs. Knowles." 

He then cautioned him, and told him that Dr. 
Gush had said that Mrs. Knowles was in a danger- 
ous condition, and that it was necessary for a dying 
declaration to be taken. 

"I can't come to-day," replied Knowles. 

"It is advisable," said the officer, "for you to 
be present for your own sake." 

"Am I under arrest?" asked Knowles. 

"No," replied Smith. "At present I have no 
warrant. But if you do not come voluntarily I shall 
obtain a warrant." 

"I am quite willing to come," observed Dr. 
Knowles, and got out of bed. 

Major Smith noticed that he was obviously very 
weak and ill. He was unable to walk and, assisted 
by Mr. Morris, Major Smith got him to a chair. 
He was, however, quite rational and knew precisely 
what was happening. He several times complained 
of his nerves, saying that they were all gone. As he 
sat on a chair he sponged his face and washed his 
teeth, instructing one of the boys to pack a suit-case 
for him. Major Smith asked him if he could tell 
him anything about a lace frock his wife was 
supposed to be wearing at the time the accident 


"I expect it has been washed," replied Knowles, 
"thrown away, burnt or something." 

Major Smith then examined the mosquito net, 
and noticed that at the head of the bed there were 
two smoked holes in it, about six inches from the 
mattress. That is to say the holes were in two folds 
of the net, which was there double. The hole was 
on the net nearest the door. The sheets on the bed 
where Dr. Knowles had been lying were blood- 

"I am going to take possession of the net and 
the sheet," said Smith. 

"Take what you want," languidly replied 

As the officer was removing the bedding he found 
a revolver holster under the pillow. He showed it 
to Knowles. 

"They took the revolver yesterday," remarked 
the latter. At that time he was sitting on a wicker 
chair in front of the cupboard. He added, referring 
to his wife, "I think she will roll up, you know." 
Meaning, of course, that he thought she would die. 

At this stage Mr. Morris discovered some blood- 
stained lady's garment in the dressing-room. 
Between the two rooms there were louvred doors, 
and the garment was hanging on one of these, as 
though it had been carelessly thrown there. It 
was examined and a hole was found in it which 
might have been caused by a .455 bullet, or, the 
police admitted, it might have been an ordinary 


Mr. Hanson, a dispenser at Bekwai, who was 
working under Dr. Knowles, then joined the search 
party. It might be here explained that on the day 
of the luncheon party Mr. Hansen had dispensed 
medicine for Dr. Knowles. He had given him a 
sleeping draught and sent him a hypodermic 
syringe and some morphia. Dr. Knowles was being 
assisted to dress by one of the boys. The doctor was 
in a violent sweat. He had a whisky and soda and 
one or two cigarettes. Just before his departure for 
the hospital he turned to Mr. Hansen and said, 
*' Good-bye, Mr. Hansen, if I don't see you any 
more." And at the same time he drew his hand 
across his throat. 

The party then set out. On the way to Kumasi 
Dr. Knowles appeared quite normal, although he 
continued in a violent sweat. Mr. Morris was in 
the car, and Dr. Knowles conversed with him, said 
he had not seen him before, and asked him if it 
was his first tour. He continued to smoke cigarettes 
and to doze occasionally. At Kumasi Major Smith 
left Dr. Knowles in Mr. Morris' bungalow, while he 
went to procure the warrant for arrest. While he was 
away Dr. Knowles appeared very upset and several 
times repeated, "The whole business is very bad". 

Mr. Morris then reminded him of the caution 
which Major Smith had given him as to talking, 
and he replied, "That's all right. I don't care what 
happens to me, I am worried about my wife." A 
little later he said, "If my wife rolls up it means a 
murder case". And, still ignoring Major Smith's 


warning, he observed, "It is a bad show and has 
upset me very much. If my wife rolls up I will be 
hung by the neck until I am dead". Then Major 
Smith returned with the warrant, which, at the 
request of Dr. Knowles, he read out as follows : 

GOLD COAST COLONY. Whereas Benjamin 
Knowles, of Bekwai, is accused of the offence that 
he on the 20th October, 1928, at Bekwai, and within 
the jurisdiction of this Court, did use a certain fire- 
arm, to wit a revolver, with intent unlawfully to 
cause dangerous harm to one Mrs. H. L. Knowles. 
You are hereby commanded in His Majesty's name 
forthwith to apprehend the said Benjamin Knowles 
and produce him before the Court at Kumasi. 
Issued at Kumasi the 22nd day of October, 1928. 
(Signed) F. McDOWELL, Ag.C.J.A." 

Dr. Knowles was in a pretty bad condition at this 
time, and it is safe to say was not altogether respon- 
sible for what he said and did. When Major Smith 
returned with the warrant he found him sitting 
with a pail between his legs, in which Knowles had 
been sick. After the warrant had been read, he 
said, "I am under arrest now, am I ?" and Major 
Smith replied, "Yes". Then Knowles said, "What 
I am worrying about is where I shall sleep". He 
then asked the officer, "Have you heard how the 
missis is ?" Major Smith replied that he had not. 
It was then 2.30 p.m. 


Major Smith then told Dr. Knowles that it would 
be necessary that he should be present at the hospital 
while his wife made her statement and they both 
got into the car. As he was getting in, Knowles said, 
"It is a bad show, if she rolls up I am afraid I am 
for it". It is evidence of his irresponsible mental 
condition that he kept repeating the same or similar 
phrases. Then came the business of taking the state- 
ment of the dying Mrs. Knowles. It was a solemn 
occasion, and as the Bible was being passed to Mrs. 
Knowles, Dr. Knowles said to her, "Now, my dear, 
tell the real truth ". To which Mrs. Knowles replied, 
"I shall tell the real truth". Then came the taking 
of the statement and the subsequent death of Mrs. 
Knowles, as already described. 

That same afternoon Dr. Knowles was brought 
before the Police Magistrate and the District Com- 
missioner, and remanded for a week. Major Smith 
had already had a sentry placed over the bungalow 
of Dr. Knowles at Bekwai. 

It might be mentioned here that after the state- 
ment had been taken from Mrs. Knowles, the latter 
heard it stated that her husband was then under 
arrest. She expressed surprise, and protested that 
he could not have done it, as he was in bed at the 
time. That was the last service the poor woman 
was able to do her afflicted husband, for she expired 
shortly after. 

The following day a further search of the bunga- 
low at Bekwai was conducted by Major Smith, who 
was accompanied by Assistant Commissioner of 


Police, Mr. Simmons, and Mr. Morris. Superin- 
tendent Afful was already there, and had discovered 
a used revolver bullet, which Major Smith took 
possession of. It appeared to be a .455. Thelouvred 
doors were wide open. In the dressing-room Smith 
noticed a wardrobe, which had clothes in it. He 
noticed a hole in it, with a crack which ran up and 
down from it. (Major Smith, I might remark, was 
a veritable Sherlock Holmes and we shall presently 
see how he carried out some curious tests.) 

Major Smith closely examined the hole in the 
wardrobe. He opened the door and found the wood- 
work round the hole inside was torn and jagged. 
He came to the conclusion that it had been recently 
done. On the first shelf were some female clothing 
and immediately above was another impression as of 
a bullet. There were no signs of a bullet mark on 
the louvred doors. Both Mr. Morris and Mr. 
Simmons were assisting in these examinations. A 
little later Mr. Morris drew the attention of Major 
Smith to the table by the bed. The top was made 
of thin matchboard, and in this was a hole, which 
seemed to Smith to have been caused by a bullet 
and recently done. The fracture appeared new. 
Major Smith then made the following test. He got 
a length of string, held the end of it against the 
impression at the back of the wardrobe, threaded it 
through the hole in the door, continuing the string 
in a straight line at the same angle, and it came to 
the bullet mark on the top of the table. Continuing 
the string further he found that it came approxi- 


mately to the same position as the hole in the 
mosquito net would have been if the net were drawn 
down. All the others — Mr. Morris, Mr. Simmons 
and Superintendent Afful — witnessed this test. 

The inference to be drawn was obvious. Some- 
body — presumably the prisoner, Dr. Knowles — was 
lying on the bed, and fired his revolver at Mrs. 
Knowles, the bullet passing through her body, the 
table and the wardrobe, making the holes in its 
flight which were discovered. At first this sounds 
reasonable, even convincing. A very interesting, 
not to say ingenious theory. But it was subsequently 
proved to be quite fallacious. The police had to 
admit that the bullet, having passed through the 
body of Mrs. Knowles, who was a big woman, 
would certainly not have force enough left to also 
penetrate the table and wardrobe, which was 
situated some distance away. A human body has 
great stopping power with a bullet, and by the time 
the bullet had emerged from the body of Mrs. 
Knowles there was very little impetus left in it. 

Then the police shifted their ground a bit and 
argued that there were two shots fired, although 
there was no witness who was prepared to swear 
that he heard more than one shot on that occasion. 
Strangely enough the police at length succeeded in 
finding a second bullet in the bungalow, and this 
discovery seemed to confirm their second theory. 
Unfortunately for them, however, this second bullet 
was accounted for in a quite rational and convincing 
manner. Some time before the death of Mrs. 


♦Knowles, that lady, who was subject to occasional 
fits of irritability and wilfulness, did, in fact, fire the 
revolver in question at the door of the wardrobe, 
which accounted for the hole in the door and the 
finding of the second bullet. Mrs. Knowles had 
some knowledge of fire arms, and was used to 
handling them, so it was not strange that she should 
be playing about with the revolver in that manner. 

Finally, therefore, the police had to adhere to 
their original theory and the only tenable one, 
namely, that the prisoner fired the revolver at his 
wife in the heat of a quarrel, while he lay on the bed, 
and as his wife was standing near in the act of 

A very close search of the bungalow was made, 
but no other bullet holes could be discovered. But 
Major Smith was still anxious to trace Mrs. Knowles' 
lace frock, the one that, according to her statement, 
had caused the revolver to go off. It, however, 
could nowhere be found. They even unsuccessfully 
searched the latrine. Finally certain articles of 
clothing and bits of furniture were removed from 
the bungalow and taken possession of by the police. 
These included a chair, on the legs of which were 
small spots of blood. 

The position now was that Mrs. Knowles had died 
from a revolver shot, her husband was in custody 
charged with her murder and the police were very 
busy building up the case against him. The life of 
Dr. Knowles was then in far greater jeopardy than 
would be the life of a man charged with murder in 


this country. Dr. Knowles was now securely in a 
snare from which it must have seemed to him that 
it was hopeless for him to endeavour to extricate 
himself It appears obvious that he was himself fully 
conscious of the great peril in which he stood, as 
indicated by his repeated hysterical utterances as to 
his being ''for it" and so on. 

Let us now describe why that peril to his life was 
so great. 

Having been brought before the Magistrate and 
Commissioner in the lower court, he was duly 
committed to take his trial at the Chief Commis- 
sioner's Court in the Eastern Province of Ashanti, 
which was held at Kumasi, on November 13, 1928, 
before His Honour Frank John James Foster Mc- 
Dowell, Acting Circuit Judge of Ashanti. 

We shall now proceed to deal with this trial, 
perhaps one of the most remarkable that ever was 
held within British dominions. 


The cause Rex versus Benjamin Knowles must 
inevitably stand out prominently for all time in the 
archives of British criminal trials. The prisoner was 
charged with the murder of Harriet Louise Knowles, 
contrary to Section 224 of the Criminal Code. The 
prisoner pleaded Not Guilty. The Prosecution was 
conducted by Mr. Piegrome, Commissioner of 
Police. There was neither Solicitor nor Counsel for 
the Defence. It is definitely laid down by the laws 


of Ashanti that " In no cause or matter, civil or 
criminal, shall the employment of a barrister or 
solicitor be allowed". There may or may not be a 
jury, and this question seems to be within the power 
of the Judge himself to decide. At all events there 
was no jury at the trial of Dr. Knowles. Thus, in 
this case, you have the extraordinary situation of 
the prosecution of a trial for murder being con- 
ducted by the police who bring the charge, and the 
onus of defence being placed upon the shoulders of 
the accused man himself! 

To give the evidence in detail would be but to 
repeat much that has gone before. One need only 
touch here and there upon salient and interesting 

There were no opening speeches, the evidence 
being taken at once. When the witness had given 
his evidence-in-chief, the prisoner proceeded to 
cross-examine him. The serious disadvantage this 
was to the prisoner is at once obvious, for however 
good his case may be, no man, especially one 
finding himself in such a perilous position, is as 
qualified to deal effectively with the evidence as 
would a properly qualified barrister be. Dr. 
Knowles did his best, and was occasionally successful 
in discounting much of the evidence given against 
him. This was the more noticeable when he made 
reference to the dying statement of his wife. I give 
a portion of his cross-examination of Dr. Gush : 

Knowles: Had my wife full possession of her 
mental faculties when she made her statement ? 


Gush: She certainly had. 

Knowles: When she made the statement did 
you think I was normal?" 

Gush : I did not. I saw you arrive, you stumbled 
up the steps, you were still very confused and very 

Knowles: Was there any sign I had taken 
drugs ? 

Gush: I think you had. I formed this opinion, 
that your condition both at the hospital and at 
Bekwai was due to three conditions : Alcohol, opium 
or morphia and shock at the accident. 

(Notice that the witness describes it as an 

Knowles: You know from the position of the 
wounds there must have been a lot of blood ? 

Gush: Yes. 

Knowles: Ante-mortem, there must have been 
a continuous stream of blood ? 

Gush: Yes. 

Knowles: Would not the first thing to do be to 
stop the bleeding ? 

Gush: Undoubtedly. 

Knowles: And to enjoin absolute rest? 

Gush: Perfectly correct. 

Knowles : On your first examination would you 
not think the wound might recover with rest, opiates 
and stopping the haemorrhage — you have seen cases 
like that ? 

Gush: I have. 


Knowles: She was under my care for twenty- 
four hours. Do you think that, under the circum- 
stances, what I did was good practice ? 

Gush: Yes. 

Knowles also put the following interesting 
questions to Mr. Mangin, the District Commissioner: 

"Your bungalow is nearly the same type as 
mine ?" 

"Yes," replied Mangin. 

"What is the bedroom temperature like?" 

"Frightfully hot," replied Mangin, "you can feel 
the walls hot when you touch them." 

"It is too hot to sleep in pyjamas in the after- 
noon?" suggested Knowles. 

"Yes," agreed the Commissioner, "I myself only 
use a towel." 

The object of these questions was, of course, to 
prove that the appearance of Dr. Knowles in an 
almost nude condition in his bungalow which, at 
first glance, would seem to indicate a distraught 
condition, was merely quite the usual thing in that 

He shook the evidence of Sampson under cross- 
examination and made it clear that the servant 
was not telling the truth in some details and that 
he was prejudiced against his master. He also 
cross-examined to some effect the police chief. 
Major Smith. He upset that official's story about 
the supposed line the bullet which killed Mrs. 
Knowles had taken, and compelled Smith to admit 


that he knew nothing about the stopping power of 
the human body. 

When all the witnesses had been heard and cross- 
examined, Dr. Knowles went into the witness-box 
to give evidence in his own defence. As he had no 
counsel he was called upon to make a statement. 
Having been sworn, he proceeded to say emphati- 
cally that he did not murder his wife, nor did he 
shoot her. He also maintained that there was no 
evidence of intent. He declared that he was very 
fond of his wife and that she was very fond of him. 
There was no money trouble. The doctor then 
went into some intimate details as to his wife's 
natural condition which accounted for much of the 
blood found in the bungalow. It also had some 
bearing on the actual shooting, as to the stopping 
power of his wife's body. These details may not be 
given in a book of this kind, but must be taken for 

Dr. Knowles admitted that there were occasional 
quarrels between himself and his wife, and at such 
times, he said, his wife, especially if she had taken 
any drink, became hysterical. He also admitted 
that at lunch on the day of the tragedy he himself 
had had some drink, although he was perfectly 
sober. After the guests had departed he and his 
wife had one or two more drinks, and then a quarrel 
arose "about nothing". It was so trivial in fact, he 
explained, that he forgot all about it. For some 
nights he had been sleeping badly and was fright- 
fully tired. He went to bed with a towel round him 


and was soon asleep. He saw his wife come into the 
room and start to undress. The next he remembered 
was the hearing a shot fired. It woke him up and he 
heard his wife exclaim, "My God, I am shot!" 
Immediately he jumped up and said, "Show me, 
show me". 

Mrs. Knowles was then only in her dressing-gown. 
He examined her and saw a wound on her leg. 
Blood was pouring out of it in a continuous stream. 
His first instinct was to stop the bleeding. She was 
in great pain. He got some cotton wool and 
dissecting forceps and plugged the main wound 
with iodine. It took some time to do this. He then 
plugged the other wound in the abdomen and got 
his wife into bed. She had been standing the whole 
time. As she was still in great pain he gave her a 
little brandy or whisky and milk. He then gave her 
a sleeping draught. At the time he was perfectly 
sober. He was sleepy but not drunk. He took some 
of the draught himself His wife said to him, " People 
will think I have done this myself purposely". 
Knowles replied, "All you have to do is to lie quiet. 
I will take all the blame for it." He then referred 
to the visit of Mr. Mangin, who, he said, he knew 
could be of no assistance to him in regard to his 
wife's recovery. He, Dr. Knowles himself, had done 
all that was possible. 

Such was Dr. Knowles' version of what happened 
in the bedroom, which only he and his wife had any 
personal knowledge of. He added some observa- 
tions about the prejudice and untruthfulness of the 


"boy" Sampson, whom he did not engage but who 
was taken on by his wife. In reference to the mos- 
quito net, he said that it had been in use about 
seven months, had never been taken down to be 
washed, and that in addition to the hole that had 
been pointed out, it had innumerable other holes. 
He also commented on the two bullets which were 
found by the police. 

He was cross-examined by the Commissioner of 
Police. I give a portion of the interrogatory. 

Counsel: Why does it matter if the police found 
two bullets or one ? 

Knowles : Because there was only one shot fired 
and no evidence of more than one wound. 

Counsel : Can you account for the second bullet ? 

Knowles: It was to my mind the bullet that 
went through my wife, and the one in the wardrobe 
had been there for months. 

Counsel: So the clothes in the wardrobe had 
not been moved for months ? 

Knowles: Mrs. Knowles was careless about 
housekeeping. It is quite possible the bottom layers 
had been there for months. We did not go out 

Counsel: Sampson said they were taken out 
regularly ? 

Knowles: They were never taken out regularly. 
Sampson had only been three weeks with me. 

Counsel: You say you didn't want to engage 
Sampson ? 


Knowles : My wife ran the house. He came with 
a series of books (references) , some of which did not 
appear to be in a white man's writing. I showed 
some to Mr. Mangin and told the boy to come back, 
but Mrs. Knowles engaged him in the interval 
against my advice. 

Counsel : In spite of your wishes to the contrary ? 

Knowles: Exactly. I was doubtful if his testi- 
monials were genuine and she engaged him against 
my advice. 

Counsel: You say you had never seen Bonga 
Fra Fra ? 

Knowles: There are so many boys round my 
kitchen I wouldn't have noticed him. Kofi (another 
servant) is a Bekwai boy and there are many boys 

Counsel: You hadn't seen him around the 
house ? 

Knowles: I hadn't noticed him. 

Counsel : I suggest you were in such a condition 
from drink and drugs that you didn't see him ? 

Knowles : Prior to the accident I was not suffer- 
ing from drink and drugs. 

Counsel: I understand that your wife used to 
beat you ? 

Knowles: Sometimes when hysterical and after 
a silly argument. She was very concerned about it 
after. It didn't hurt me and I didn't take it 
seriously, nor did she. 

Counsel: You went out of your way to show 
bruises on your leg ? 


Knowles: Yes, I may have. I never wore sock 
suspenders and I may have just shown the bruises 
by way of conversation. I didn't want any sympathy 
or anything of that sort. 

The object of the cross-examination was clearly 
to prove that Dr. Knowles had some real grievance 
against his wife and a motive for killing her. 
Counsel pointed out that he had said that he had 
fired the shot, but he protested that he did not. He 
admitted that, under the influence of drugs, he had 
stated that he had threatened to put a bullet through 
his wife, but had not said that he had done so. He 
had told his wife that he was prepared to take the 
blame of having fired the shot, so that, apparently, 
it should not be thought that Mrs. Knowles had 
attempted to commit suicide. He confirmed his 
wife's version of the accident. Counsel asked him why 
the boy Sampson should lie, and Dr. Knowles replied, 

*'He was the boy who picked up the bullets. He 
hated me. He rushed off to the police and has since 
helped the police. He has said that I shouted ' Show 
me' before the shot. That is a lie. It was after the 
shot. There was nothing to shout about before. 
There was a mutual dislike between us. Instead of 
going to the police, a good type of boy would have 
brought the bullets to me instead of pocketing them 
and giving them to the police. He is a low down 
Cameroon boy with no sense of honour or truth." 

The cross-examination was a very long and 
exhaustive one, and Dr. Knowles stood it well, and 



had he been tried by a jury he must have created 
in their minds a deep impression of his innocence. 
However, he did not appear to have done so in the 
mind of the Judge, who, as no witnesses were called 
for the defence, at once proceeded to sum up. 

His lordship very carefully traversed the evidence 
which had been given for the prosecution, practi- 
cally telling the story of the alleged crime all over 
again. In reference to the statement made by Mrs. 
Knowles, he said, 

"The accuracy of Mrs. Knowles' statement is 
challenged by the prosecution, and the case for the 
Court to decide is as to whether this was in fact an 
accident or whether Mrs. Knowles' statement was 
the untruthful effort of a generous woman to save 
her husband from the consequences of a crime." 

His lordship's comments on the rather loose and 
irresponsible utterances of Dr. Knowles after the 
shooting were as follows: 

"As to the various remarks made to the police 
officers and Mr. Hansen, the prisoner states that the 
idea of murder never entered into his head, and that 
he was acting under a fixed idea, which it would take 
an expert psychologist to explain. To that one can 
only say that from that it is clear from the remarks 
already quoted — ' If she rolls up I shall be hanged 
by the neck until I am dead', etc. — that the idea 
of murder was in his mind, and that the somewhat 
subtle defence of an obscure mental process by 
which all these statements are merely manifesta- 
tions of a fixed idea to protect his wife and have no 


relation to truth, is not one that can commend 
itself to a Court of Law, without strong technical 
evidence to support it. And it must be noted that 
he never said it was an accident, but went out of his 
way to show considerable provocation." 

The summing-up was a long and rather rambling 
one, and in its general drift was decidedly unfavour- 
able to the accused. His lordship concluded in the 
following words: 

"Taken as above the evidence against the 
prisoner appears overwhelming. 

"Now I have no reason to doubt that both Dr. 
and Mrs. Knowles were extremely fond of each 
other, but the menage was, I hope, a somewhat 
unusual one amongst persons of the professional 
class. It would appear that Mrs. Knowles was a 
somewhat hysterical person and, her husband hints, 
addicted to drink. If his evidence is correct, she 
had twice fired off a revolver past him to frighten 
him and had bitten his ear. He had on at least two 
occasions shown bruises inflicted by her, and as the 
prisoner put it, 'She used to think an Indian club 
was sufficient to stop an argument once or twice'. 

"There is one point that should be mentioned in 
his favour, and that is that his theory that the bullet 
that passed through Mrs. Knowles' body, lost its 
vis a tergo and might have kicked against the bed- 
stead would possibly be compatible with the furrow 
on the bullet found by Kofi, but there is no evidence 
that this was in fact the bullet that killed Mrs. 


(This does not appear very lucid, but I will let it 
go at that.) 

His lordship concluded: 

" I confess that the real evidence is very confusing, 
but I think that the evidence, including that 
afforded by the prisoner himself, is overwhelming, 
and I think there can be no reasonable doubt of the 
prisoner's guilt. From the nature of the defence I 
am unable to say fully what was his mental state 
at the time or what immediate provocation he had 
received. I find the prisoner guilty of the murder 
of his wife, Harriet Knowles." 

A rather curious finish to a remarkable summing 
up. Although, as his lordship says, the evidence is 
"very confusing", he still finds it "overwhelming" 
against the accused! 

In reply to this finding Dr. Knowles makes strong 
protest, which, in the official report is referred to as 
a "rambling statement". He rightly and vehem- 
ently protested, as a British citizen, against being 
tried without a jury and without being allowed 
counsel, for in the absence of the latter he was 
unable to formulate his questions properly. 

However, this protest was of no avail, and the 
Judge proceeded in due course to sentence him to 
death : 

"Benjamin Knowles, the sentence of the Court 
is that you be taken to a place to be hereafter 
appointed by the Governor and that there you be 
hanged by the neck until you are dead. And may 
the Lord have mercy upon your soul." 



The sentence on Dr. Knowles was not carried 
out, it being subsequently reduced by the Governor 
to one of penal servitude for life. Dr. Knowles 
was imprisoned in Ashanti, the prison in which he 
was confined being staffed with black warders. 

But Dr. Knowles had many friends in this 
country among medical students, as well as in Aber- 
deen, his native town. There were also his sister 
and his mother, who were prepared to make 
sacrifices on his behalf. So steps were taken to assist 
him and to prove that innocence in which they 
had implicit faith. A solicitor was engaged and an 
appeal was made to the Judicial Committee of the 
Privy Council for permission to appeal. This was 
at length granted and accordingly Dr. Knowles was 
brought to this country and lodged in Maidstone 
Prison pending the hearing of the appeal. As his 
health was very bad he was received into the 
hospital, where he remained until the conclusion 
of the appeal. He was not able to appear in 

The Judicial Committee which sat to consider the 
case of Dr. Knowles consisted of five judges, namely, 
the Lord Chancellor, Viscount Dunedin, Lord 
Darling, Lord Atkin and Lord Tankerton. They 
sat in a large room, at a long table, in their ordinary 
clothes. There was no scarlet and ermine. It was 
in November, 1929, and cold. A cheerful fire burned 
in a capacious grate just behind their lordships, which 


a sober-garbed official occasionally stoked. The 
proceedings were conducted in a very sedate manner 
and all voices were subdued to almost a whisper. 

Dr. Knowles was represented by Mr. D. N. Pritt, 
K.C., who stood at a desk situated near their 
lordships, from which he read out, in a kind of 
conversational voice, the details of this very remark- 
able case. During this recital the Judges made 
passing and occasional comments, directed to vital 
points in the evidence. For instance, when Mr. 
Pritt related how Dr. Knowles had made the 
observation about his wife "rolling up", the voice 
of Lord Dunedin was heard remarking : '" Roll up ' ? 
That's a slang expression I don't know." 

Then Mr. Pritt came to his rescue by explaining, 
"I think it means 'She will die'." 

This seemed to satisfy Lord Dunedin, who nodded 
his head comprehensively. 

"It is contended," pointed out Mr. Pritt, "by 
the prosecution that there was a plot by Dr. Knowles 
or his wife to hide the facts." 

"Is there any evidence of a plot?" asked Lord 

"No," replied Mr. Pritt emphatically. 

Mr. Pritt then went on to read out the account 
of the incident in the bedroom, when the shot was 
fired which killed Mrs. Knowles. He pointed out 
that the prosecution asserted that Mrs. Knowles, 
who was known to be used to the handling of fire-arms, 
would not do such a silly thing as the defence had 
stated she did, by sitting on the weapon, and so on. 


Then said Mr. Pritt, commenting on this. 

**But women do silly things, even when not 

This observation seemed to amuse their lordships, 
who all indulged in a broad and sage grin. 

Then Mr. Pritt quoted this passage from the 
evidence : 

"If his evidence is correct, she had twice fired off 
a revolver past him to frighten him, and had bitten 
his ear on at least two occasions. He had showed 
bruises inflicted by her, and as he put it, 'she used 
to think an Indian club was sufficient to stop an 

This concluded the reading of the evidence, or, 
as one may put it, the case for the defence. Mr. 
Pritt's place at the reading-desk was then taken by 
the Attorney-General, Sir William Jowett, K.G., 
who represented the prosecution. He then pro- 
ceeded to argue from the point of view of the 

''Who fired the shot ?" he asked in a quiet tone 
and without any attempt at emphasis or rhetoric. 
"Has it, or has it not, been proved that it was fired 
by Dr. Knowles?" 

"With intent to murder ?" inquired Lord Atkin. 

"With intent to murder," replied Sir William. 

Counsel then repeated the salient and most vital 
parts of the evidence advanced by the prosecution, 
pointing out the importance of the incident of the 
violent quarrel between Dr. Knowles and his wife, 
the threat uttered by Dr. Knowles that he would 



put a bullet through his wife, and the evidence of 
the bruises on his leg as shown by Dr. Knowles. His 
contention was that Dr. Knowles, while lying on 
the bed, fired at his wife through the mosquito net. 

"The position is this," he explained. "The man 
is lying on the bed after a violent quarrel. The 
revolver is within reach, and then a shot and a cry. 
. . . The native boys run over and fetch Mr. 
Mangin, a neighbour. Dr. Knowles tells him he 
doesn't want any help, and then calls the boys 
together and is annoyed with them because they 
have brought Mr. Mangin. Why is he annoyed ?" 

"Perhaps he didn't want anybody butting in," 
suggested Lord Tankerton. 

Sir William continued: 

"After the shot, a hole is noticed in the mosquito 
net which the native boys had not seen before. That 
might have been made by a bullet. If it were, then 
the revolver was fired by someone who was on the 
bed. When Dr. Knowles' wife was dying he said, 
' If my wife rolls up I will be hanged by the neck 
until I am dead'." 

At this stage the Judges and counsel put their 
heads together, as it were, and had a quiet little 
conversation, taking the various points into con- 
sideration. Sir William Jowett agreed that the 
phrasing of the judgment was not by any means 
happy, although he maintained that the verdict was 
not wrong. Lord Darling then pointed out that, 
as there was no jury, the judge was not called upon 
to say anything. But — and this was a vital point — 


the Judge did not seem to consider the possibiUty of 
a verdict of manslaughter. 

"A Judge who condescends to reason gives a 
hostage to fortune," retorted Sir William. 

Sir William then proceeded to argue that if the 
sleeve of Mrs. Knowles' lace dress — which, by the way 
was never found — had caught in the trigger, the re- 
volver could not possibly have shot her in the thigh. 

Lord Atkin then tried an experiment, in an 
attempt to reconstruct the action. He half rose 
from his chair and felt for an imaginary revolver 
on the seat. 

Then Lord Dunedin offered a suggestion : 

"The lace dress may have been on the chair," he 
said, "and the revolver got entangled in it. She 
need not necessarily have been wearing it." 

Finally Sir William said: 

"If your lordships feel there is any reasonable 
doubt about this man's guilt, so far as I am con- 
cerned I should like your lordships not to be too 
strictly bound by legal considerations. I feel frankly 
it would be very wrong for a man to spend his life 
in prison if there is any reasonable doubt at all." 

After which act of generous capitulation on the 
part of counsel for the prosecution, the end seemed 
pretty certain. 

The Judges then went into a short conference and 
announced their decision in these few but fateful 
words : * 

"We propose humbly to advise His Majesty to 
allow the appeal and quash the conviction." 


These simple words were spoken in such a subdued 
voice by the Lord Chancellor as to be almost a 
whisper, but they brought joy to the hearts of 
several people who were vitally concerned. In the 
room were the sister of Dr. Knowles, Mrs. Ashby, 
and the sister of the dead woman, both of whom 
were deeply grateful at the result of the appeal. 
Said Mrs. Knowles' sister: 

" I am glad. I am sure it is what my sister would 
have wished. ' ' In distant Aberdeen also there was the 
mother of the prisoner, who was overjoyed at the news. 

Dr. Knowles had been in prison over a year. In 
the ordinary course of things he would have had 
to remain in prison some weeks longer so that due 
legal effect could be given to the finding of the 
Judges. The case was unique and there was no 
precedent. The Home Secretary, Mr. Clynes, how- 
ever, made his own precedent, and gave orders for 
the immediate release of Dr. Knowles. The glad 
tidings were conveyed to the doctor and steps 
taken for his release. A large crowd was waiting 
for the appearance of Dr. Knowles, and a ruse had 
to be resorted to evade it. In a car was the doctor's 
sister, his solicitor and a friend. This was driven 
away from one gate while Dr. Knowles was being 
released from another and a private exit. The two 
cars subsequently met about ten miles away and 
the doctor entered the one containing his friends. 

And so at long last the victim of African circum- 
stantial evidence was restored to freedom and the 
welcome arms of his kith and kin. 


The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in 
pronouncing their decision, notified counsel that 
they would give their reasons for arriving at this 
decision later. These reasons were embodied in a 
printed document, which was issued four months 
after the hearing of the appeal. It stated: 

" There was not the slightest inquiry into whether, 
assuming the shot was fired by the accused, the act 
amounted to manslaughter and not murder. There 
is no attempt to face the question of whether the 
standard of proof required to prove murder as 
against manslaughter has in this case been reached. 
If the case had been before a jury and the Judge 
had not explained to them the possibility of a 
verdict of manslaughter, but had said if not accident 
the only alternative is murder, that would have been 
an erroneous summing-up. That is what is to be 
found in the judgment. 

"Their lordships are therefore, as the learned 
Judge failed to consider the question, bound to con- 
sider whether the evidence here reached the standard 
of proof necessary to involve a conviction of murder. 
They are clearly of opinion that it did not." 

Thus ended this quite exceptional and unique 
case of alleged murder, which certainly, I should 
think, deserves to be included among cases of 
murders of mystery. 

In reviewing the case one is struck with how it 
seems to embody wellnigh all the elements requisite 
for the construction of what one may term a perfect 
case of miscarriage of justice. It is safe to say that 


no writer of fiction would dare to venture on the 
construction of such a plot, or even think of one of 
such outrageous circumstance. 

In the first instance, we have the abnormal scene 
for the enaction of the tragedy, a remote and far- 
flung corner of this vast empire. The climate which, 
to an Englishman, must have had grave effects upon 
his mental stamina and balance. The hectic and, 
to a certain extent, irresponsible life. The almost 
inevitable — certainly pardonable — recourse to drink 
and drugs. The comparatively lonely life of Knowles 
and his wife. The alien servants, with the animosity 
of at least one of them. The habit of always keeping 
a loaded firearm at the bedside — which was adopted 
on account of rumours of burglars — and the pre- 
carious way in which it was sometimes handled. 

Then you have to consider the bickerings of 
Knowles and his wife, which, however, may not 
have been of a very serious nature, yet serious 
enough to play a vital part in the tragedy impending. 
Then the tragedy itself, enacted within the seclusion 
of the bedroom, with no human eye to observe but 
that of the victim and of her husband, yet withal the 
ear, the malignant ear of the malicious native servant 
without. Then you have the strange police pro- 
ceedings which, from first to last, do not seem to 
have included the bare possibility of the accused's 
innocence, but were directed avidly and of single 
purpose to the effective running to earth of their 
quarry. This partial and prejudiced research was 
even extended to the Bench, as demonstrated by the 


Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, for they 
find that the Judge in Ashanti did not for a moment 
consider the possibility of manslaughter but was 
intent exclusively upon proof of murder. 

Then you have the remarkable method of criminal 
procedure, that deprived the prisoner of the right 
of being tried by a jury and callously denied him 
the professional and skilful services of either solicitor 
or counsel. Thus they left him forlorn indeed and 
isolated, called upon to defend himself in primitive 
form against all the power that the local State could 
bring to bear upon him. That he was condemned 
is scarcely to be wondered at and that the Governor 
subsequently decided to forgo the last grim cere- 
mony cannot unfortunately be accounted to either 
an acute sense of justice or mercy on the part of those 
nearest and officially concerned. It would seem, 
rather, that, after mature and temperate considera- 
tion, the official mind was somewhat shaken at the 
contemplation of consummating what might yet 
prove to be a woeful misconception of law and justice. 

Dr. Knowles passed through a terrible ordeal, 
literally through the shadow of the valley of death. 
That he eventually emerged from it a free man one 
can regard as little short of miraculous. We need 
not entertain any doubt as to his innocence. We 
should give full credence to that solemn utterance 
of his dying wife — which the legal powers of Ashanti 
shamefully discredited — that the shooting of herself 
was the result of a vicarious act, and not an act of 
homicide on the part of her husband. 



{The Case of Louisa Maud Steele^ Blackheath, 
January^ 1931O 

On the evening of Thursday, January 23rd5 1 93 1 , 
about eight o'clock, Miss Louisa Steele, a domestic 
servant, left her place of employment, in Lee Road, 
Lewisham, for the purpose of making one or two 
local calls. She was expected back again about 
nine. She had to call at a house a few yards away, 
in order to return a book to a neighbour which her 
mistress had borrowed. Then she would go on to 
a chemist's shop to obtain some medicine. The 
night was wet and windy, therefore it was not 
supposed that she would remain out of doors longer 
than was necessary. 

It was not Miss Steele's usual day or evening 
out, but she enjoyed a good deal of freedom with 
her mistress, a Miss Andrews, a professor of music, 
and at all times could go out if she wished to. The 
previous day, Wednesday, she had her usual half- 
day out, when she visited her parents at Ann 
Street, Plumstead. Upon that occasion she visited 
a relation in hospital, and when she returned she 
asked one of her brothers if he would go to the 



pictures with her. The brother, however, was 
unable to accompany her, so she went alone. That 
was the last her parents saw of her that day. 

Miss Steele was aged nineteen and was a very 
steady, well-behaved girl, and much respected and 
valued by her employer. She did not return as was 
expected on the Thursday evening to the house 
in Lee Road. As time went on and she was still 
absent Miss Andrews became uneasy. When eleven 
o'clock came and Miss Steele did not appear, Miss 
Andrews became thoroughly alarmed. So much so, 
in fact, that she went to the local police and reported 
the matter. 

Miss Steele was away all night. She had not 
been to her parents' house at Plumstead. What 
had become of her ? 

That question was destined shortly to be answered 
in a very tragic manner. 

Shortly before eight o'clock on the following 
Friday morning, a lamplighter, employed by the 
South Metropolitan Gas Company, named Leslie 
Hall, was walking across Blackheath, from Pond 
Road, in order to put out the lights in Shooters 
Hill Road, when he saw something lying on the 
path. It was then light and the weather was still 
wet and windy. In fact it was pouring with rain. 
Time became an important factor in this dis- 
covery. Hall had started his round at 6.30. It 
took him about an hour and a half to extinguish 
all the lights. He had just crossed the Princess of 
Wales Road when he saw the object on the 


path. He reckoned the time then was 7.40. He 
was walking on the grass. The object was lying 
on a left incline from where he was walking, about 
twenty yards away. He at first thought that it 
was a bundle of clothes somebody had left there. 
When he approached nearer, however, he dis- 
covered to his amazement that it was the body of 
a woman. 

He could see her head and hair. Also the top 
part of her shoulders and her right arm, which 
was bent above her head. Her coat was over the 
rest of the body, except one knee, which was bent 
and showing. She was lying on her back. The coat 
was a woman's dark coloured coat, with fur cuffs. 
There was also a dark, navy-blue garment beside 
her. There was a path about thirty yards away, 
and on this Hall saw a cyclist, and he called to him. 
He told him to fetch a policeman, and the cyclist 
did so. He was away about twenty minutes, during 
which time Hall kept guard over the body. At the 
moment he found the body. Hall saw nobody 
else on the heath. 

When the local police realised that a brutal and 
mysterious murder had been committed, they at 
once communicated with Scotland Yard, and the 
case was put into the capable and experienced 
hands of Chief Superintendent Ashley and Superin- 
tendent Charles Cooper, who were soon on the spot, 
bringing with them many assistants. In fact the 
full force of the C.I.D. was brought to bear upon 
what was realised was a very important case. At 


one time there were no fewer than a hundred 
detectives working on it at the same time. 

The body proved to be that of the missing girl, 
Louisa Steele. She had been killed in a very savage 
manner. She had been strangled, a tape in the 
neck of her dress having been utilised for the pur- 
pose. In addition to this there were various 
mutilations about the face and neck. At first it was 
thought to be another "Ripper" murder, no doubt 
in consequence of these same mutilations. But this 
soon proved not to be the case, for the method of 
the murder was found to be quite distinct from 
that which was invariably adopted by that notorious 
and still undiscovered criminal. 

After Scotland Yard had taken many photo- 
graphs of the body where it lay, it was removed 
to the Greenwich mortuary. The murder was one 
of a perfectly frantic description, for the unfor- 
tunate girl's clothes had been torn from her body. 
But there was no evidence that any attempt had 
been made to outrage her. It seemed clear that 
the murderer had crept up behind Miss Steele and 
so sudden and savage was his attack that the victim 
had no chance to scream or call out. She must 
have died within a few minutes without making a 

What possible motive could there be for such a 
murder as this ? There was apparently no motive 
whatever, if one omits that of mere blood lust. 
The sheer lust of killing, which occurs sometimes 
with members of the human race, which is not 


characteristic, though, of the beasts of the field, 
who generally kill for food. There was the theory 
that the murder was the work of a roving maniac, 
and certainly the very nature of the attack would 
readily suggest this. It was the opinion of the 
police at the time and I believe still is. One is 
simply driven to this conclusion in the absence of 
any other possible and rational explanation. 

As has already been pointed out, the police 
worked very hard on the case, carrying on their 
close investigations throughout the twenty-four 
hours by means of relays of officers. The tragedy 
naturally created considerable alarm in the district, 
particularly among women, who carefully avoided 
the heath during the hours of darkness. They were, 
in fact, warned by the police to keep away, for it 
soon came to light that several other women had 
been attacked by a mysterious assailant just prior 
to the murder of Miss Steele. 

It was at first thought that the murder had been 
committed elsewhere and the body brought to the 
heath by motor car, but this was found not to be 
so. The murder was undoubtedly committed at or 
near the spot where the body was found. Some- 
body reported to the police that between seven and 
eight p.m. on the Thursday night, a man was seen 
crossing the heath from Shooters Hill, on a road 
that runs near the Princess of Wales pond. With 
him was a girl, who was crying. This attracted a 
passer-by, and the man, seeing that he was observed, 
left the girl and came up to the passer-by in an 


aggressive manner and asked why he was being 
watched. The girl then remonstrated with him, 
requesting him to "Come back, Jack. Leave him 

A description of this man was given as follows : 
*'Age about 25. Height 5ft. Sin. Clean shaven, 
with a pale face and a twisted lower lip. On the 
right side of his face is a newly-made scratch. 
Dressed in a worn mackintosh, light coloured, and 
of an Army pattern. Hat, a dirty, soft-grey one, and 
voice rather coarse." 

This description was broadcast by the B.B.C. 

The police appealed to this man to come forward, 
as he might or might not be of assistance to them. 

The coroner's inquest on the body of Miss Steele 
was opened on Tuesday, January 27th, by the 
Greenwich Coroner, Dr. H. S. Knight. It was 
adjourned until February 17th, in order that Sir 
Bernard Spilsbury, the well-known pathologist, 
might make a thorough examination of the body. 
There were no women on the jury. Detective- 
Superintendent Cooper, with other Scotland Yard 
detectives, were present in court. 

The parents of the dead girl, Mr. and Mrs. Steele, 
who were dressed in black, were seated near the 
fire. Both were weeping and presented a sad 
spectacle. The father took the stand first. He was 
a tall, grey-haired man, and was described as a 
general labourer. He had identified the body. His 
evidence was brief and merely consisted of a 
description of the visit paid to him by his daughter 


the day prior to the murder and which has already 
been alluded to. He was followed by Miss Andrews, 
the sister of the dead girl's employer, also dressed 
in black. She stated that she lived at the house in 
Lee Road with her sister and her father, who was 
a retired gun manufacturer. 

"Had you employed Miss Steele for a long 
time?" asked the coroner. 

"Just over two years as general help," replied 
Miss Andrews. "She slept in." 

"Was it usual for her to go for a walk after 
supper?" asked the coroner. 

"Always on Tuesdays and Thursdays," replied 
Miss Andrews, "she generally started out about a 
quarter to eight. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 
were her half-days and evenings out. On Wednes- 
day and Sunday she went out after lunch. On 
Saturday she went out at 5 p.m. She was free on 
these days until 10 p.m. She was always very 
regular in returning, and sometimes came back at 
8.45 p.m." 

Miss Andrews further explained that the girl 
performed her duties in the normal way on the 
Thursday, and did not know whether she would be 
able to go out that evening, as they were expecting^ 
a relative to supper. Thus she would not be likely 
to have made any arrangement for that night. It 
would be improbable that she would have made 
an appointment with anybody. 

In the evening Miss Andrews went to a Sunday 
school treat, leaving her sister. Miss Mabel Andrews, 


in charge until half-past nine. In the meantime 
Miss Mabel Andrews sent the girl to take back a 
book, which she had borrowed, to a friend's house, 
a few doors up the road. After that she was to go 
to a chemist's shop, should it be open. After that 
Miss Steele was to be at liberty to go for a short 
walk, but it was thought more likely that she would 
return at once to the house. She had to fetch some 
syrup of senna from the chemist's. If she got it 
she would probably return at once. If not she might 
take a walk, probably along Belmont Hill. 

"She had your permission for such a walk?" 
asked the coroner. 

"Yes," replied Miss Andrews, "but she had been 
warned against going on the heath, or any side 

When she left the house, the girl was wearing a 
black coat, with a brown fur collar and cuffs, brown 
felt hat, black frock with a green neckband and a 
silk scarf She left shortly before eight o'clock. It 
was subsequently ascertained that, although she duly 
returned the book, she did not obtain the medicine. 

"As far as you know," asked the coroner, "did 
she have any young men or followers ?" 

"None," replied Miss Andrews. 

"She was a quiet, modest girl," continued the 
coroner, "and well-conducted?" 

"Yes," replied Miss Andrews. 

The inquest was resumed and concluded on 
February 17th. Before the court opened Superin- 
tendent Cooper had a long conference with the 


coroner, and they both studied a large map of the 
heath which was fastened to the wall. Sir Bernard 
Spilsbury was present to give evidence, and he also 
had a short conference with the coroner before 
entering the witness-box. The father of the dead 
girl was also present in court. 

Sir Bernard Spilsbury' s evidence was to the 
effect that he had made a post-mortem examina- 
tion on January 23rd. The lips were livid. There 
were many small haemorrhages in the whites of the 
eyes and in the skin of the forehead, the root of the 
nose, and round the eyes and cheeks. The tongue 
was between the teeth, and across the front and 
sides of the neck was a shallow depression, crossing 
the Adam's apple in front. Above this, on the right 
side, was a bruise, and two below it. Beneath the 
right eye there was a roughly rectangular abrasion, 
running across the cheek, with fine parallel 
scratches traversing it. The right bone of the nose 
was fractured, and there was also bruising of the 
deeper tissues beneath all the facial injuries. 

There were also some terrible injuries on the 
body, which Sir Bernard described in detail. He 
pointed out that there were some superficial wounds, 
which had the appearance of having been inflicted 
with teeth. There were no injuries to either the 
skull or the spine. The brain and its covering were 

There were bloodstains on the clothing, which 
had been torn, probably, explained Sir Bernard, 
while being removed from the body. There were 


no cuts upon them. Around the upper edge of the 
neck of the dress a length of tape, about half an 
inch wide, had been sewn. This had been drawn 
tightly round the neck. Sir Bernard summed up 
to the effect that death had been caused by asphyxia, 
due to strangulation. 

"And that would be produced by ?" queried the 

"By the strictures of the band pressing upon 
the front and sides of the neck," replied Sir 

"Does the depression on the neck," asked the 
coroner, "correspond very closely with the tape of 
the dress ?" 

"Yes, fairly closely," replied Sir Bernard. "In 
my opinion the girl was attacked from behind and 
the neck of the dress was drawn forcibly backwards, 
while counter pressure was made on the back of 
the head and neck." 

"Would she be able to cry out?" said the 

"No," replied Sir Bernard, "not after the 
pressure had been made. She would probably lose 
consciousness in a few seconds, so that she could 
offer no effectual resistance. Probably the pressure 
was released before death took place. Most of the 
other injuries were inflicted during life. The 
injuries to the nose and to the lip, also the right 
cheek, may all have been caused by a single kick, 
while the girl was on the ground. A kick may also 
have caused the other injuries and bruises. From 


the fact that there was blood upon the ground, it 
seems pretty certain that the injuries were inflicted 
on the spot." 

Sir Bernard added that there was no indication 
of any attempt at violation. 

In reply to a juror, Sir Bernard explained that 
the strangulation would not have required a very 
great deal of pressure, and that if the tape were 
pulled from behind, such pressure would produce 
unconsciousness in a very short time, and death 
would ensue within five or ten minutes. It would 
not make much difference if the pressure were 
released before death had actually occurred. 

"I really wanted to know," continued the juror, 
"if the girl was unconscious immediately she was 

"Yes," replied Sir Bernard, "she would lose 
consciousness in a few seconds and never regain 


That concluded the evidence of Sir Bernard 
Spilsbury, and his place in the witness-box was 
taken by Miss Kathleen Andrews, professor of 
music, by whom Miss Steele was employed. Her 
evidence differed somewhat from that of her sister, 
given at the last hearing. She said the girl left the 
house about ten minutes to eight on January 22nd, 
and was to have gone across the road to a friend's 
house, and then on to the butcher's. The girl 
usually took a walk after supper, but she was 
almost always home by about nine o'clock, although 
allowed out till ten. She said that when the girl 


did not return she became very alarmed. At eleven 
o'clock she notified the police. 

**She was a good girl?" said the coroner. 

**Yes," replied the witness. "She had been in 
my employ for two years. I knew of no acquaint- 
ances to keep the girl out. There were no young 
men. She always seemed to be a decent, modest, 
hard-working girl, and was perfectly happy." 

The returning of the book was testified to by the 
friend who received it from the girl. 

Then came some interesting evidence from a 
clerk, living at New Cross, who on the night of the 
tragedy, was on Blackheath with a lady friend. 
They sat on a seat near Shooters Hill Road until 
a quarter past nine. They then left to go towards 
Greenwich. They walked across the road on to 
the footpath and continued about two-thirds of 
the way, when they left it to go on to the grass. 
They stopped to talk, and then noticed something 
on the grass, about seven to ten yards away. They, 
could not make out what it was, but it looked like 
a couple on the ground. There was no movement, 
but there was a covering which looked like a black 
coat. They could see part of a head beneath the 

They had heard no disturbance or quarrelling on 
any other seat, nor did they see anything in the 
nature of a scuffle in the direction of the object on 
the grass. Then they went on their way. 

On January 23rd a hat was found on the heath, 
and this was produced in court and identified 


by Miss Andrews as having belonged to Miss 

Detective Inspector Cory, of Scotland Yard, was 
the next witness. He described how he found the 
body, and produced a small shoe, the heel of which 
was found in the girl's left hand. A blue scarf was 
also found about thirty yards away. The officer 
further explained that since the crime was reported 
very extensive inquiries had been made, but they 
had been unable to find anyone who was with the 
girl after she had left her employer's premises. 

"I suppose you have delved very deeply into the 
life of this girl ?" asked the coroner. 

"Yes," replied Inspector Cory, "and the result 
has been that undoubtedly she was a girl of fine 
character — good moral character. She was a girl 
of very few friends, and, so far as we can ascertain, 
no male friends." 

"You found no undesirable acquaintances?" 
said the coroner. 

Not a trace of any," replied Cory. 
Did anything strike you about the injuries?" 
asked the coroner. 

"The only inference one can draw is," replied 
the officer, "that it was done by a maniac. There 
is not the slightest doubt." 

That concluded the evidence and the coroner 
proceeded to sum up. 

I do not think," he said, addressing the jury, 
it will be any advantage to take up your time 
further in the hope that something may turn up. 


Considerably over a thousand statements have been 
taken from persons thought to have anything to do 
with it, and hundreds of people who just happened 
to be living near have been questioned. It is 
obvious the girl was murdered in a most violent 
and terrible manner. It may be that it was 
an insane person, and that person may have no 
recollection of the matter. He may even be 
sheltered by someone who has no knowledge of it 
at the present time. (It will be recalled that much 
the same observations were made about the 
notorious 'Jack the Ripper'.) But you are not 
concerned with the mentality of the murderer." 

The jury then returned their "open" verdict 
without leaving the box. 

The coroner then again addressed them: 

"You have heard that the police have gone most 
completely into the past of this girl. Sir Bernard 
Spilsbury has told you that she was a pure girl. 
Whenever anything happens to a young girl like 
this, gossip is very likely to draw a wrong inference, 
and it is as well that you should have these facts 
before you. Both her mistresses had a very high 
opinion of her, and her past life has stood the 
concentrated attention of experienced police officers 
for three weeks. I think, perhaps, that should be 
stated, because often it does injury to the character 
of a person who has the misfortune to meet with 
such a terrible end." 

This was a rather scathing comment on the 
attitude of mind of supposed Christians. So it 


seems that a person may not even be murdered 
under certain circumstances without having their 
moral character Hghtly dealt with. In this con- 
nection one is reminded of the words of the late 
Jerome K. Jerome, which occur in his book, My 
Life and Times^ and in which he sums up the whole 
human race as: "still of low intelligence and evil 
instincts." Alas! 

The last words which were uttered in the public 
recital of this most poignant tragedy, emanated 
from the distracted father of the murdered girl, 
who, in heart-fervent tones, exclaimed: 

" I would like to meet him ! " 

Referring, of course, to the murderer. 

The police also would have been very glad to 
have met him. But it was not to be. And it is 
certainly due to no fault of theirs that the mystery 
remains unsolved. It was and is an unsolvable 
mystery. Out of the blue, as it were, and the void 
and the fancied peaceful seclusion of that pleasant 
suburb, the hand of a violent and relentless assassin 
was thrust and summarily crushed the life out of 
that innocent child, while indulging in a healthful 
walk upon the wind-swept heath. And then was 
gone again! It is really very disturbing, and 
reminds one of the distant past, when London, 
particularly outer London, was a place of insecurity 
and peril, and where after dark one had to walk 
with cautious step. 

The main difficulty with which the police were 
faced, as they themselves admitted, was to account 


for the movements of the girl between the hour 
she left the house in Lee Road to the presumed 
time of the murder, about nine o'clock. As she left 
home about eight, this left one hour unaccounted 
for — the silent hour, as it were. The police, in 
spite of their very close and prolonged investiga- 
tions, failed to discover anyone who was in a position 
to say that they either saw or spoke to or heard 
anything about Miss Steele during that hour. 
What became of her, what did she do and where 
did she go, during that time ? There was no 
definite reply to these queries forthcoming. Thus 
the police found themselves up against a blank 
wall in their researches and could go no further. 

Let us, however, try to throw some light upon 
this dark hour. 

We know that Miss Steele left the house in Lee 
Road for the purpose of making certain calls. One 
was to return a borrowed book to the owner, who 
lived a few yards away. This call was made and 
the lady who received the book from the girl said 
she saw nobody, no man, loitering about near the 
house at the time she received the book from the 
girl. The next call was evidently to be made at a 
shop, which also would not be far away. Miss 
Kathleen Andrews said the girl was next to call at 
a butcher's shop, but her sister said that it was at a 
chemist's she was to call and fetch a certain medi- 
cine. It does not matter very much, however, 
which shop it was, or whether it was both. The 
evidence is that she did not in fact call at either. 


So far as can be ascertained she did not make any 
other call after she left the book in Lee Road. 
Therefore it seems that, since the place of the next 
call could not have been far away, something must 
have happened to her soon after she had left the 
house in Lee Road. What was it ? Did she meet 
somebody and go straight for a walk upon the 
heath ? Not at all likely. There is ample evidence 
that the girl would not have neglected to have made 
the call or calls at the shops. Then how are we to 
account for her actions subsequent to the first call ? 
I think they may be accounted for in this way: 

I will rule out the suggestion that she met some- 
body. It is highly improbable that she would be 
indulging in a secret meeting with anybody, she 
was not that kind of girl. It is true that the police 
discovered among her belongings an unfinished 
letter, addressed to "My dear Jack." At first they 
reasonably supposed that they had alighted upon 
a valuable clue. They found the young man to 
whom the letter was being written and soon became 
convinced that he had nothing to do with the 
murder, nor was he in a position to assist them in 
any way. He was just a friend of the girl's, but 
who knew little about her movements. Thus, 
I say, we must rule out of our consideration any 
idea of a prearranged meeting. 

This, then, it seems to me is what might have 
happened : Having made the first call, she at once 
made her way towards the shops, only to find them 
shut. There does not appear to have been any 


allusion made to this possibility. It was certainly 
rather late for suburban shops to be open in the 
middle of the week. Shops close much earlier 
now than they used to do before the war. It is 
true that finding the shop closed, she might have 
knocked, but there is no evidence that she did. 
Certainly there is no evidence that she did not go 
as far as the shops. Well, supposing she found 
them closed, and that she was therefore unable to 
procure the articles she wanted, she turned her 
steps towards the heath, with the intention of 
taking that stroll which she was in the habit of 
doing. Since she knew she need not get in before 
ten there was no need for her to hurry. Even if 
she got back by nine, she still had plenty of time 
before her. So she proceeded slowly and at her 

The heath is an extensive place and it would 
occupy a considerable time to go far round or 
across it. Thus it might very well be that it was 
getting towards nine before the girl met with her 
assailant, or was suddenly attacked by him. He 
may have been dogging her footsteps for some time, 
waiting for a favourable opportunity to attack. 
This he might have done without alarming her by 
walking on the turf and under cover of the darkness 
of the night. It does not appear that the precise 
hour of the murder was fixed. The nearest that 
the police were able to get to it was through the 
medium of the clerk, who undoubtedly saw the 
body. But this does not fix the exact moment of 


the killing, which may have occurred some time 
before. So that the time between the girl's call in 
Lee Road and the actual murder may not have 
been so long as was supposed. 

If this theory be correct and thus accounts 
for the girl's movements during the "silent hour," 
it does not, unfortunately, do anything further 
towards solving the mystery. It was this dumb 
hour which so bothered the police. They said that 
if they could have found somebody who saw or 
talked with the girl during that period, they would 
have been able to carry on their investigations 
much more effectively. It seems pretty clear, 
however, that she did not meet anybody during 
that time other than her slayer. Nor, under the 
circumstances, would she be likely to, as can be 
readily understood. A young woman who "keeps 
herself to herself," as this young woman seemed 
to have been in the habit of doing, would not be 
likely to meet and chat with anybody while taking 
a little stroll on her own. Particularly as it was at 
night and on a wide stretch of heath. 

If, on the other hand, you rule out the suggestion 
of the shops being shut, then the mystery is im- 
penetrable. For argue as you may there is no 
discoverable reason why Miss Steele, a steady and 
quiet girl and devoted to the interests of her 
employers, should have failed to make the other 
calls. It is true that from the moment she left the 
house where she returned the book, her move- 
ments became enshrouded in mystery and there is 


no accounting for them, provided, I repeat, you 
dismiss the idea of the closed shops. In the ordinary- 
course of things it seems highly improbable that 
the girl would have failed to make the calls at the 
shops, and the fact that she did not do so, leaves 
one vainly guessing. 

That she went on to the heath of her own accord 
seems beyond all doubt. But that she would go 
straight there without first calling at the shops 
seems highly improbable. Therefore, what hap- 
pened to take her on to the heath without first 
calling at the shops ? The most likely explanation 
is the meeting with somebody that she knew. But 
there is no evidence at all of this, and the known 
character of the girl, and the circumstances of her 
life, are all against it. The idea that she was 
kidnapped, as it were, before she had time to go 
to the shops, and then taken on to the heath, is 
too wild to be entertained. What, then, happened 
to her ? 

That there was a homicidal lunatic roaming 
about the district at the time, appears obvious. 
As has already been pointed out, several young 
women were attacked by a mysterious assailant 
shortly before Miss Steele met her death. One of 
these women described how a man suddenly 
appeared and made a grab at her neck, but that 
she screamed so loudly that the man became 
alarmed and made off. That young woman was 
fortunate in being able to scream, and very likely 
owed her life to the opportunity given her to raise 


an alarm so quickly. It seems that the murderer, 
realising that he failed in that instance through 
the noise raised by his intended victim, made sure 
of Miss Steele by not giving her an opportunity of 
screaming. As Sir Bernard Spilsbury said, he must 
have come up behind her and grabbed her round 
the neck so suddenly and tightly as to cause her 
to become unconscious almost at once. 

What became of him ? Not a trace of him was 
to be found, either of his coming or his going. He 
came like a shadow and so departed. The only 
clue, if such it could be called, as to his retreat, 
was supplied by somebody who saw a strange man 
call at a wayside cafe at Catford, about two miles 
from Blackheath, in the early hours of the morning 
following the murder. He was noticed to be very 
agitated and that there was blood on his hands 
and face. He drank a cup of coffee and then 
hurried away. The police followed up this clue 
at once and made extensive inquiries on the spot, 
warning all sorts and conditions of people to keep 
their eyes open for this individual. They also 
questioned innumerable persons who might possibly 
have seen the mysterious bloodstained man. All 
to no purpose, however. He was never traced. 
Thus he remained and still remains as elusive as 
the notorious "Jack the Ripper", who at one time 
he was thought to be. But as the Ripper murders 
occurred over forty years ago, this was hardly 

Well, there the matter rests. It may be that the 


truth will eventually come to light, and the police 
be enabled to finish the job which they have had 
in tlie meantime to "pigeon-hole". But certainly 
at the moment it does not seem at all likely. 

In July, 1 93 1, a young girl named Ivy Godden 
was murdered near her home at Ruckinge, a village 
near Ashford, in Kent. She was missing for two 
days, when her body was found buried in a wood 
not far away. Suspicion soon fixed upon a young 
man named Salvage, a poultry farmer, of the same 
place. He was promptly arrested and charged with 
the murder. The motive was vague. He was 
eventually tried at the Old Bailey, having in the 
meantime retracted his confession and put in a plea 
of Not Guilty. He was, however, convicted and 
being pronounced insane, consigned to Broadmoor 
Asylum, D.H.M.P. 

While awaiting trial he also confessed to the 
murder on Blackheath, the details of which are 
given in the foregoing narrative. An investigation 
was duly held and it was then made obvious that 
it was quite impossible that Salvage could have 
committed the Blackheath murder. The confession 
was merely a symptom of his mental derangement. 



{The Case of Miss Margery Wren^ Ramsgate, 
September, 1930.) 

About six o'clock on a Saturday evening in 
September, 1930, a little girl named Ellen Marvell, 
called at a small general shop, situated in Church 
Road, Ramsgate, and kept by an aged maiden 
lady, named Miss Margery Wren, for the purpose 
of making a purchase. She found Miss Wren in a 
prostrate condition in the shop and quite unable 
to serve her. Alarmed, the girl returned home and 
told her father. The latter at once went to the shop 
and saw Miss Wren, who had evidently been 
severely injured in some way or other. He spoke 
to her and asked her what was the matter, in that 
general way which people do. 

"I have just had a tumble," replied Miss Wren, 
"that's all." 

But this reply did not satisfy her neighbour, who 
sent his little girl for a doctor and himself went for 
the police. Soon after the Chief Constable of 
Ramsgate, Mr. S. F. Butler, arrived on the scene. 
He was so impressed with what he saw at the shop 
that he at once communicated with Scotland Yard, 



which brought Chief Inspector Hambrook and 
Detective Sergeant Carson to Ramsgatc, they having 
been given charge of the case. 

Miss Wren was removed to hospital in a very 
weak condition. It was clearly a case of murder, 
and why the victim should have tried to create the 
impression that her injuries were the result of an 
accident was and still is a mystery. She had been 
savagely attacked with a pair of tongs, which were 
found on the premises, bloodstained and with hair 
clinging to them. With these Miss Wren had been 
battered about the head. 

Miss Wren was eighty-two years old, and had 
formerly lived with a sister who, however, had died 
about two years before. Since then Miss Wren 
had been living alone. She was supposed by some 
people — neighbours mostly — to be possessed of con- 
siderable means. Upon examination of the will of 
Miss Jane Wren — the sister — at Somerset House, 
it was found that she had died leaving property 
valued at ^^2 1 1 2^. "]d. She appointed Mr. Stewart 
Watson Oldershaw, solicitor, of Lincoln's Inn, and 
Mr. Harry Jarratt, insurance agent, of Picton Road, 
Ramsgate, to act as executors and trustees. Her 
furniture and personal effects she left to her sister, 
Margery Wren. She also directed that her freehold 
cottage and shop, together with the goodwill of the 
business, should be held in trust, the income to be 
paid to the sister. On the death of the latter it 
was to pass to Richard Archibald, Chapel Place, 


Living as Miss Wren did, entirely alone, it was 
not surprising that she was supposed to have a 
good deal of money hidden somewhere on the 
premises. It seems inevitable that when either a 
man or woman elects to live alone that they should 
acquire the reputation of being a miser and in the 
habit of hoarding large sums of money on the 
premises. This, however, proved not to be so in 
the case of Miss Wren. There certainly was money 
on the premises, and it was found in various strange 
and unexpected places, hidden in various receptacles 
in all parts of the house, but in the aggregate it 
did not amount to much. They were all small 
sums, just a few shillings, and so on. 

Not a very big business was done at the shop, 
which was regarded as the "tuck shop" by the 
children of St. George's School, situated nearby. 
In fact Miss Wren drew most of her customers 
from this school. And so small was the business that 
it was the opinion of her relatives that had it not 
been for her private means she would have been 
unable to carry on. 

So severe were the injuries inflicted upon the 
unfortunate lady that she lingered but a few hours 
and died on the following day. She died, it may 
be added, without furnishing the police with the 
slightest clue as to the identity of her slayer. She 
was unconscious most of the time, but during her 
brief periods of consciousness she uttered words 
which would appear to make it quite clear that 
she was not murdered for plunder. In fact it was 


found that her money was practically intact. So 
robbery was not the motive of the murder. What, 
then, was the motive ? Here are the different brief 
statements or observations made by Miss Wren at 
the hospital in the presence of the police, who 
waited patiendy and anxiously all the time for 
her to supply them with some clue to work upon: — 

"He tried to borrow ^^lo." 

*'I don't know why he should have come into 
the shop, then." 

"Is the litde black bag safe ?" 

This bag was one which Miss Wren was in the 
habit of carrying about with her, and to which 
she seemed to attach considerable importance. It 
was thought that she might have kept large sums 
of money in it, but this was merely a conjecture. 
The bag was found and taken possession of by the 
police. It apparently held nothing of importance. 
Just before she expired, and having been warned 
that her end was near. Miss Wren made this 
pregnant observation: 

"You say I am dying. Well, that means I am 
going home. Let him live in his sins." 

Here was an intriguing, not to say exasperating, 
mystery for you! How disappointed the police 
must have been. The dying woman obviously 
knew who her murderer was, but for some reason 
or other, determined to keep a still tongue about 
it and so allow the culprit to go unpunished. 
What was the motive of this very mysterious 
murder ? 


The Chief Constable of Ramsgate made the 
following public announcement: 

"The police are now convinced beyond all doubt 
that Miss Margery Wren was the victim of a brutal 
• and savage murder. This disposes of any theory 
that may still exist in the minds of the public to 
the effect that Miss Wren may have met her death 
by accident. 

"I earnestly appeal to any person entering or 
leaving the shop between the hours of 2 p.m. and 
6 p.m. on Saturday last, or to anyone who saw any 
person in the vicinity of the shop or entering or 
leaving the premises between these hours, to com- 
municate with me at once." 

As usual under such circumstances, the police 
were called upon to interview many people in the 
matter, and to receive various statements. A young 
woman, for instance, called at the police station 
and said she saw a man, whose description she gave, 
loitering near the shop about an hour before the 
time Miss Wren was found injured. The statement 
was confirmed by another woman who lived near. 
This supposed clue was followed up by the police 
but, like many other statements investigated by 
them, it unfortunately led to nothing. In the first 
place these descriptions are usually very vague, 
and are rather difficult to deal with. Also at such 
times people become inspired and ultra-suspicious, 
and quite trivial incidents and innocent persons 
become magnified in their minds as something or 
somebody portentous. Very often when such 


suspected persons are traced they prove to have 
had nothing at all to do with the tragedy. All of 
which adds considerably to the difficulties of the 
task before the police. And it has this unfortunate 
"result: It puts the police on to the wrong scent, and- 
while they are following a false track they are 
unconsciously and, of course, unintentionally, aiding 
the culprit in making his get-away. Time is a most 
important factor in such an investigation, and 
every hour, even every minute, that elapses between 
discovery and arrest automatically increases the 
difficulty of pursuit, and widens the distance between 
the police and their quarry. 

Finger-prints were fouild on the premises, and 
these were dealt with by Detective Inspector 
Greville, the head of the Finger-print Department 
at Scotland Yard, but this unfortunately led to no 
practical result. Many photographs were taken 
inside the house, and the bloodstained tongs sub- 
mitted to the closest scientific tests. In the shop 
was found a small linen handkerchief, which was 
at first thought to be a valuable clue. It bore a 
certain name, and the owner was eventually traced 
and proved to be a ten-year-old boy, whose father 
had an office near the shop. Both the boy and his 
father went to the police-station and identified the 
handkerchief It was one of a half-dozen which an 
aunt had sent as a present for the little boy and 
his brother. They had been marked by the mother, 
so that the boys should not quarrel over them. 
All but the one in question had since been lost. 


Apparently this one had been dropped by the boy 
while in the shop making a purchase. The police 
were satisfied with the explanation. And so away 
went another "valuable clue". It was very dis- 

One particular man who was under suspicion 
was taken to the station, where he was detained 
several hours, during which time he was subjected 
to repeated questioning. Apparently his answers 
proved satisfactory, for he was afterwards released 
and was not again interrogated. 

Some interesting details as to the deceased 
woman's relations were furnished by a female cousin. 
It appeared that Miss Wren, in her will, left the 
contents of her shop and any other property she 
possessed, to be divided between the aforesaid 
cousin and the latter's sister, both of whom also 
lived in Ramsgate. One of these cousins had been 
a widow for twenty-seven years and had seven 
children. One of these was a Police Constable in 
the Metropolitan Police Force. At the time he 
was spending his holiday at Ramsgate and in 
consequence of the tragic happening at the "tuck 
shop", had been granted an extension of leave. 

Miss Wren had been seen by her cousin, the 
widow, on the day of the murder, and she then 
seemed as usual. She was getting feeble and was, 
being "old-fashioned", as it is called, in the habit 
of wearing long skirts, which occasionally tripped 
her up as she went along. It was also recorded 
by the cousin that about five or six months ago 


Miss Wren had fallen while trying to reach some 
boxes on a shelf, and had injured her face. All of 
which facts have no relevant bearing on the tragedy, 
which was clearly that of murder. The supposition 
of accident, which had at first been entertained, had 
since been ruled out of consideration. 

At one stage of their investigations the police 
made a "reconstruction" of the crime, which was 
quite in the French way of dealing with such a legal 
tragedy. They enlisted the services of a female 
neighbour of Miss Wren's, who impersonated the 
dead woman. She followed the supposed move- 
ments of Miss Wren on the day of the murder, 
walked into the shop, assumed certain poses and 
sat in Miss Wren's chair. All the while the police 
were actively employed in taking photographs and 
making copious notes. 

A good deal of importance was attached to the 
nature of the wounds received by Miss Wren. It 
was thought that she was first attacked while sitting 
in the chair, and that afterwards she fell to the 
ground. Her assailant then delivered the majority 
of the blows. There were some peculiar marks on 
the throat, which indicated that she had been 
clutched there by her murderer, either in an 
attempt to strangle her, or in order to stifle her 
cries. It was also thought that an effort had been 
made to gag her. Church Road was very quiet 
on a Saturday afternoon, with little or no traffic 
passing, yet nobody appeared to have heard any 
screams or cries coming from the tuck shop. 


Mrs. Cook, the elderly cousin of Miss Wren, did 
all she could to assist the police. Unfortunately 
this was not much, so unexpected and mysterious 
was the whole affair. For some years Mrs. Cook 
had been in close touch with Miss Wren, but was 
unable to give the name of any man who might 
have been acquainted with or had any dealings 
with Miss Wren. She had never heard the deceased 
speak of anybody but in a friendly way. So that 
the man who entered the shop and committed the 
murder was to all concerned, "a man of mystery." 
It was known, however, that Miss Wren had lent 
various sums of money, but these were probably 
merely small sums, and the deceased made no 
reference to the transactions. There appeared 
to be a good deal of doubt as to how much money 
Miss Wren had on the premises, whether she had a 
"secret hoard" and whether the small sums found 
were all that she possessed. 

An interesting fact which came to light during 
the investigations was that the deceased lady 
belonged to a family which was distantly connected 
with that of Sir Christopher Wren, and that of 
Admiral Wren, a naval officer of generations ago, 
whose portrait hung on the wall of the sitting-room 
of the shop in Church Road. 

The post-mortem examination made by Sir 
Bernard Spilsbury added fresh and significant 
details to the tragic story. The well-known 
pathologist placed it beyond conjecture that Miss 
Wren's throat had received violent pressure from 


the hands of a man who had undoubtedly attempted 
to strangle her. This pressure, considered Sir 
Bernard, was sufficient in itself to have caused the 
death of a woman of the age of Miss Wren. In 
addition to this, as we know, the unfortunate 
woman must have been very severely wounded 
about the head with the tongs. 

The mystery, however, in spite of these enlight- 
ening facts, seemed to deepen day by day. It was 
coming to be regarded as one of the most curious 
crimes of recent years. It was said that there was 
far more behind it than an attack on a lonely 
shopkeeper by a man who just walked into the 
shop. It seemed certain, after a very close scrutiny 
of the premises had been made, that it was not an 
ordinary murder for robbery. That is to say, it 
was not a case of a man entering the place on 
the off-chance of getting anything he might find 
on the premises. He had a definite object beyond 
that. He had evidently made a search of the whole 
place, both upstairs and downstairs. In a room up- 
stairs the police found that two drawers were taken 
from a cupboard and searched, the contents being 
strewn on the floor. This recalls the incident in 
the murder of an old woman in Scotland, of which 
the unfortunate man Oscar Slater was wrongly 
convicted. These two cases are strangely similar 
in their main features. In the Scotch case the 
mysterious assailant (whose identity has since 
become known) had entered the flat and murdered 
Miss Gilchrist. He had then searched the rooms 


for something — probably a document of some kind 
— which he badly wanted to get possession of. He 
probably failed to find it, and so took away with 
him a brooch belonging to his victim, with the idea 
no doubt of creating the impression that the motive 
of the attack was that of robbery. That is what the 
police thought and that is what led them to go 
after and arrest the wrong man. In the Ramsgate 
case the police rightly rejected the robbery motive 
and realised that something quite different had 
prompted the attack. It was not done to get 
possession of Miss Wren's money or portable 
valuables, which might be found on the premises, 
but in order to get possession of a document. Un- 
fortunately, however, this did not help them much, 
for they were unable to lay their hands on the 
culprit. That he was known to Miss Wren seemed 
obvious, but why she should have shielded her 
assailant with her last breath was beyond under- 

On the drawers which the police took possession 
of were found some finger-prints. These were 
carefully preserved and subsequently photographed. 
But here again the clue unfortunately proved to 
be useless. They could not compare them with 
any other finger-prints. There were no other 
prints like them in their archives, which proved 
that the culprit, whoever he was, had not been 
through the hands of the police. Thus finger- 
prints, invaluable clues as they are under other 
circumstances, become futile in such a case as this. 


Time passed and in spite of the strenuous efforts 
made by the poUce — both Scotland Yard and the 
local police, who worked together on the case — 
the chance of taking the culprit seemed more 
remote than ever. Surmising that the assassin 
must inevitably have been extensively blood- 
stained, the police addressed a request to dyers 
and cleaners to let them know if they had been 
called upon to clean any bloodstained garments 
lately. They also appealed for information about 
persons seen near Miss Wren's shop on the day of 
the murder between the hours of 3.30 and 6.30. 
But the response to these appeals was practically 
nil. The police conjectured that the man, after 
entering the shop, must have gone into the room 
behind. Then ensued a quarrel with Miss Wren, 
words led to blows and the man hit her on the head 
with the tongs, rushed upstairs and ransacked the 
drawers in search of something which, however, 
he could not find. He then came downstairs again, 
found Miss Wren still alive and tried to strangle 
her with his hands. Then, believing her to be 
dead, he left the premises. 

Later on a curious story about the past of Miss 
Wren and her deceased sister was discovered by 
the police in the course of their investigations. It 
appeared that the two sisters. Miss Margery Wren 
and Miss Mary Jane Wren, had been in domestic 
service. Yet, in spite of this humble occupation, 
the one who died first left property worth 7(^900. 
How was she able to save so much ? It was further 


elicited that many years before the murder the 
two sisters had befriended a girl, who was in 
unfortunate circumstances. A lifelong friend of 
the two sisters stated that at the time of this incident 
the Wren sisters were in the service of an officer 
and that the girl they befriended was about to 
become a mother. After the child was born the 
girl married a man who looked after the child. 
Unfortunately the man died and then the sisters 
Wren agreed to look after the child. It was a girl, 
and eventually grew up to be very pretty and 
charming. The father of the child was a wealthy 
man and knew of its adoption by the Wrens. At 
length the girl married. She had several children 
and then she died. The story is rather complicated 
and involved, but the police, with the hope of 
coming across something in it to connect up with the 
murder, investigated it as far as they were able. But 
their energies were not rewarded, for they were un- 
able to discover anything definite in it to help them. 

It was thought that Miss Wren must have been 
worth a "good bit," and that she had been known 
to refer to her solicitor and her "agent," but here 
again nothing definite could be discovered. 

Eventually, on October 24th, the coroner's 
inquiry was concluded. 

The coroner asked Chief Inspector Hambrook 
the question: 

"Have you been able to find any evidence to 
corroborate her later statements that she came by 
her injuries as a result of a fall ?" 


"No, sir," replied the inspector. 

*'Have you," continued the coroner, "been able 
to find any evidence to corroborate her later 
statement that she had been attacked by the 
persons whom she named ?" 

"No, sir," again replied the inspector. 

It had apparently been the intention of Miss 
Wren to lead the police away from the real culprit 
by naming two other men as the possible assailants, 
who, however, were found to have had nothing to 
do with it. 

The coroner then made comments on the case 
as a whole, by way of summary. 

"So far as motive is concerned," he said, "the 
deceased woman does not appear to have made 
any allegations as to being robbed. In addition 
to this there is very little discrepancy between the 
amount of money found in the house and the 
amount of money the woman said she had. It 
would be futile to speculate as to other possible 
motives. We cannot look at the evidence without 
seeing that in spite of Miss Wren's physical dis- 
abilities, there is strong evidence of normal mental 
alertness. It shows she was a person of active and 
acute intelligence. Her answers show that she 
appreciated the position. 

"Just before she died. Miss Wren had a talk 
with the vicar. It seems reasonable to suggest 
that a person who knew she was facing death 
would be unlikely to go to her death with a lie on 
her lips. She made a dying declaration, in the 


knowledge that she was dying, and it is very- 
important with reference to the interpretation to 
be put on her earlier statements to remember that 
in the face of death she said, ' I do not wish to make 
any statement.' 

"Immediately the vicar had left she said to 
Mrs. Baldwin, a friend, apparently with satis- 
faction, ' I did not tell him anything, see.' Putting 
these things together, I think you will come to the 
conclusion she was a woman who had a secret to 
keep and who kept it. She was always on her 
guard when a police officer was present. If you 
come to the conclusion that she knew who her 
assailant was and did not intend to tell, I think 
that is a conclusion which would be warranted by 
an impartial survey of her different stages. The 
reason she refused to tell may be assumed to be 
that she wished to shield someone. I am disposed 
to attach more importance to the statement made 
by the dead woman when she was unconscious 
than to the statements made when she was in full 
possession of her senses. In one of these un- 
conscious moments she said, 'You can't take it. 
Oh, don't.' 

"I want to tell you that there is no evidence on 
which you could find a verdict against any of the 
persons referred to in her statements. The fullest 
inquiries have been made into the circumstances, 
and if any real evidence had resulted from 
the inquiries it would have been brought before 


The verdict was the inevitable ''open" one, to 
the effect that the murder was committed by "some 
person or persons unknown". 

And there the matter has remained ever since. 
As to what the secret was which Miss Wren guarded 
so jealously there is not a scrap of evidence to 
indicate. The motive was strong enough to seal 
her lips even in the presence of death. The reader 
will have to find his own solution in his own way, 
for no assistance, beyond what has been related 
above, can be vouchsafed him by the writer or by 
anybody who had anything to do with the investi- 
gation of the tragic occurrence. 



{The Case of Agnes Kesson, Epsom^ June, 1930.) 


Early on the morning of Thursday, June 5th, 
1930, while an attendant at the Horton Mental 
Asylum was making his way along Horton Lane, 
near Epsom, in Surrey, he suddenly came upon a 
body lying in the ditch by the side of the road. 
The spot was situated just beneath a tall tree. It 
was evidently the body of a female, being clothed 
only in underwear. At first the attendant thought 
she was merely asleep, but upon going closer he 
became satisfied that she was dead. 

He at once raised an alarm. He went to the 
gate of the asylum and informed the gate-foreman, 
a Mr. Catlin. The latter then telephoned the 
doctor of the institution, a female practitioner 
named Coffey. Dr. Coffey soon arrived on the 
scene, examined the body and sent for the police. 
The latter, realising the importance of the case, 
immediately got into communication with Scotland 
Yard. The case was given into the charge of the 
well-known and prominent member of the C.I.D., 
Superintendent Brown, who, with several assistants, 



was very soon at Horton Lane, having driven 
there in a fast car. 

Photographs were at once taken of the body. It 
was seen to be that of a young woman with blue 
eyes and a mass of fair hair. She was wearing a 
pale blue petticoat, bordered with lace, silk stock- 
ings, but no shoes. A black shoe which was found 
lying on the edge of the ditch was at first believed 
to have belonged to her, but subsequent investi- 
gation proved that this was not so. The body was 
lying with the feet at the bottom of the ditch, the 
head resting in a gully, the arms being raised above 
the head and the mouth open. There were no 
signs of a struggle having taken place at the spot. 
Apparently the body had been brought and placed 
there. There were marks of a motor car wheels in 
the road near by, and they appeared to have been 
made comparatively recently. It was thought that 
she had been strangled elsewhere and then deposited 
in the ditch. It was estimated that the body must 
have been there between five and six hours. 

Horton Lane is a pretty, sylvan, winding road, 
leading from Epsom to Tolworth and Kingston. 
It is narrow and not much used. Near where the 
body was found was a row of small cottages. None 
of the occupants of these heard anything unusual 
during the night. 

One of the first steps taken by the police was to 
communicate with all stations in London and the 
Home Counties, asking for information as to 
missing girls. So far no clue as to identity could 


be found. There were no laundry marks on the 
clothing. In the afternoon the body was removed 
by ambulance to Epsom mortuary. The description 
which was circulated to all stations was as follows: 
*' Age 22 to 24, height 5 ft. 4 in. or 5 in., complexion 
fresh, hair light brown, bobbed, round face, well 
built. The body was dressed only in underclothing, 
consisting of blue striped cami-knickers, blue under 
bodice, flesh-coloured stockings and suspenders. 
No other clothing." 

It was not long, however, before the body was 
identified as that of a young woman named Agnes 
Kesson, aged twenty, a native of Falkirk. She had 
come south three or four years before. She had 
been working as a waitress at a garage and tea- 
house, called The Nook, at Burgh Heath, and 
which was kept by a Mr. F. W. Beats and his 
wife. Inquiries revealed the fact that she had been 
engaged to a mechanic there, named Robert 
Harper. She had given notice to leave, as she 
intended to go as barmaid at the King's Arms 
Hotel, Carshalton, where a friend of hers, a Mrs. 
Young, was cook. Beats had arranged for Harper 
to drive her over and take her box, but Miss Kesson 
would seem to have made other arrangements about 
her luggage. On the Tuesday a Carter Paterson van 
drove up to the tea-room for the purpose of collect- 
ing Miss Kesson's box, and did in fact take it away. 

This move on the part of Miss Kesson consider- 
ably surprised Mr. Beats and he remonstrated with 
her about it. 


*' Surely youVe going to let ' Scotch Bob' (Harper 
was known by that appellation) take the box for 
you," said her employer, "I have arranged it." 

*'No," was the laconic reply of Miss Kesson. 

After the box was removed Miss Kesson went 
upstairs in order to change her clothes. (These 
facts were supplied to the police by Mr. Deats.) 
Miss Kesson put on a black dress and a black hat. 
When she came downstairs again her employer 
asked her, 

"Where are you going?" 

'Tm going out," replied the waitress. 

Thereupon, taking her insurance cards with her, 
she departed. 

It was then about 2.30 in the afternoon. The 
last thing she said as she left was, 

"Tell Bob to tell Mrs. Young to get my box, 
and send it on to the address. She knows." 

Mr. Deats said that he did not understand what 
she meant. However, he later on delivered the 
message to the young fellow, who thereupon went 
to Carshalton and saw Mrs. Young. He waited 
for Miss Kesson, but she did not arrive. Mrs. 
Young was puzzled about her non-appearance. 
She had completely and mysteriously disappeared. 
Deats said that he did not know what had become 
of her. He knew that she received a telephone 
message in the afternoon and that she seemed 
quite her usual self, in fact she was rather jolly. Nor 
did Harper know anything which was calculated 
to throw any light upon the girl's disappearance. 


On the following day, Wednesday, which was 
Derby Day, about three o'clock in the afternoon, 
Deats said he saw a motor cyclist pass the cafe 
with a girl riding pillion. They were travelling 
very fast and simply "flashed past". The girl 
looked back and he recognised his former assistant, 
Agnes Kesson. He did not know the man. 

Agnes Kesson had arrived at Deat's shop to take 
up her duties the previous Christmas. Prior to this 
she had been a barmaid at a public-house in 
Sutton, where she remained some years. Occasion- 
ally, said Deats, she would talk about the pillion 
rides she had had. She had a brother in the Army. 
She had very little money when she arrived at 
The Nook. Since then, however, she had managed 
to save some and had opened an account at the 
Burgh Heath Post Office. 

The police made extensive inquiries among 
various garages as to the car which it was con- 
jectured had brought the body to the ditch. It 
had a much worn tyre. They were, however, 
unable to trace it. 

Naturally Agnes Kesson's father was much upset 
when he heard of the tragedy. He observed : "I 
have lost a bonny girl, one who never gave me a 
moment's trouble, and one who worked hard from 
her earliest years. I knew she had been keeping 
company with a young man for some time, but I 
learned when she was home on holiday last 
August, that she had broken off the engagement". 
He at once set out for London. 


Gradually various clues began to reach the 
police. One of these was that supplied by a 
labourer, who lived not far from where the body 
was found. He said that between 12 and 2 a.m. 
on Wednesday night he heard a woman scream. 
He immediately jumped out of bed and looked out 
of the window. He saw a motor car and near it a 
man was standing. A girl was on the path and she 
was crying. The man crossed to her, apparently 
said something to her, and she then got into the 
car, which was driven away. 

Another story came from a Purley man, who 
said he saw a girl, answering the description of 
Miss Kesson, with a man on Wednesday evening, 
about twenty-four hours after she disappeared. 
Several men were brought to the station and put 
up for identification but, as often happens, under 
such circumstances, the witnesses failed to identify, 
and so the men were released. 

Harper was much upset about the affair. He 
explained that on the day Miss Kesson disappeared 
he had driven Mrs. Deats to Tooting on a shopping 
expedition. When he left Miss Kesson was in the 
kitchen. He said good-bye to her. He returned 
late in the afternoon and then found Miss Kesson 
had gone. He neither knew which way she went 
or whether she had any luggage with her. He said 
that they both got on very well together, and 
would probably have been married soon. 

Deats advanced this theory of what had hap- 
pened: Miss Kesson had many admirers, who 


used to come to the cafe and hang about. Some 
had known her before. They became a bit of a 
nuisance to Deats, who tried to get rid of them, 
and would call Harper for the purpose. One of 
these young fellows represented himself as well off, 
and evidently attracted the girl by his manner. 
Deats thought that she may have made an appoint- 
ment with him, have met him and gone in his car. 
He did not know who he could be. He noticed 
that on the morning of her disappearance she 
seemed agitated and evidently did not want Harper 
to take her to Carshalton. When she left she 
turned up the lane, instead of, as he thought she 
should, going down to the corner for the bus stop. 
The great mystery of the tragedy, as it presented 
itself to the police, was : Where was Agnes Kesson 
during Tuesday night and Wednesday? Also: 
What had become of her clothing ? 

The inquest was opened on Tuesday, June i oth, 
at the police-station, by Mr. G. Wills Taylor, the 
East Surrey Coroner. Only formal evidence, 
however, was taken on that occasion, the father of 
the dead girl being the only witness. The inquest 
was then adjourned till the 25th, when it was again 
adjourned till July 4th. These adjournments were 
arranged in order to leave the police free to carry 
on their investigations. They took many state- 
ments from various people, one of which was 


concerning the missing motor cyclist who was 
supposed to have taken the deceased girl on a 
pillion ride on the Wednesday. None of these 
statements were, unfortunately, of much value or 

At the resumed inquest on July 4th more evidence 
was taken. It was said that Miss Kesson had 
promised to wait until Mrs. Deats came back. She 
did not, however. Why ? She left behind her a 
blue felt hat, a pair of kid gloves, a pair of brown 
shoes, a pair of stockings, a vest, an attache case, 
tooth paste, curling irons and some preparation 
for the hair. Her trunk was not labelled. 

These details were supplied by Mrs. Deats in 
the witness-box. Then ensued the following dia- 
logue between the witness and the coroner: 

Coroner: Did your husband know where the 
box was going to ? 

Mrs. D.: Not until the evening. He saw Carter 
Paterson's man coming home and asked him where 
the box was. 

Coroner: Why should your husband concern 
himself as to where the box went to ? 

Mrs. D.: It was natural. He was her employer. 

Coroner : Why was your husband anxious ? 

Mrs. D.: I cannot say. He felt he would like 
to know where she went. Previously she had told 
him she was going to Sutton. 

Coroner: Was there any other reason why he 
was concerned where the box went ? 

Mrs. D. : None whatever. 


Coroner: Just think, Mrs. Deats ? 

Mrs. D. : None whatever, unless it was in Bob's 

Coroner : Why was your husband concerned on 
Mr. Harper's account ? 

Mrs. D. : Because he works for him and because 
he is a good workman. 

Coroner: Did you know your husband went to 
WalHngton Pohce Station on Tuesday night ? 

Mrs. D. : I did not know where he went. I only 
know that he and Mr. Harper went out. I was 
told they went to Carshalton. 

Coroner: Did your husband say anything to 
you about any money that was missing ? 

Mrs. D. : He has said he was short and that he 
might have mislaid it. He said it was notes. 

Coroner: Your husband has told you from 
time to time there has been a shortage of money. 
Do you blame anybody for it ? 

Mrs. D.: We could not blame anybody unless 
we had proof. 

Evidence was also given by Mrs. Young, who 
said that Mr. and Mrs. Deats and Harper did not 
like her, Mrs. Young. Agnes Kesson had told her 
that she was going to the Duke's Head at Tad- 
worth. She said that Kesson and Harper quarrelled 
occasionally and that the girl had a violent temper. 
In fact, she added, both had. 

It further transpired that Deats said that he 
had lost ;^7 and an account-book, and that he 
was going to get a warrant to search Kesson's box. 


He did, in fact, go to the police station but could 
not get a warrant. When Mrs. Young heard about 
this she was very indignant, for she said she knew 
that Kesson was quite straight and honest. 

The inquest was resumed on the following day, 
when additional facts were brought to light, 
although the light they shed on the mystery was 
not very brilliant. A piece of string was produced, 
with which, it was thought, Kesson was strangled. 
It was found somewhere in the neighbourhood of 
the lane where the body was discovered. It also 
transpired that friendship existed between Kesson 
and other unknown young fellows. Deats's son 
and Harper had gone out in the middle of the 
night with a car. A police-constable testified that 
he saw Deats and Harper in a car about 
on Wednesday night, driving towards the main 
road 10 Brighton. 

When Kesson disappeared. Harper wrote the 
following letter to her sister in Scotland: 

" I am writing to ask if you have any information 
about Agnes, as she left here yesterday to go to 
her new job and I am very anxious to know where 
she is. 

" Her new job is with Mrs. Young, which I very 
much object to, as I think too much of Agnes to 
go to Mrs. Young, and she knows it. If you don't 
mind my saying so, if she is home, don't let her go 
back to London where her luggage is. 

*' Please wire me if she has come home safe. Tell 
her to write me as I am very worried about her." 


The inquest was again adjourned and resumed 
on July gth. The interest in it became keener than 
ever. The most important witness to enter the box 
on this occasion was Mr. Deats. He related how, 
on the night of Derby Day, that is on the Wednes- 
day, while he was clearing up, he heard a tap on 
the window. He was asked by a man to go to 
Sutton and pick up a Mrs. Smith. He knew Mrs. 
Smith. But he failed to find her at Sutton. He 
was then hailed by two men, whom he drove to a 
road in Sutton. He then returned home, where 
he arrived about twenty minutes or a quarter to 
two. He did not know the man who called him. 

"I think there is nothing more I can assist you 
with," he concluded. 

"There is nothing more you know ?" asked the 

"Nothing as far as I can tell," replied Deats. 

"Is there nothing more you know?" persisted 
the coroner. 

"I don't know anything more," said Mr. Deats. 

" We will leave it at that," concluded the coroner. 
"You can stand down for the time being." 

The coroner had been very pressing with his 
questions. Deats was in the box for over two hours. 

The coroner then addressed the jury as follows : 

"There is one person who has not been called. 
You have heard Mr. Deats say about the tapping 
on the window and Mrs. Smith. A statement by 
a witness can be produced dealing with this matter, 
but not at this point. 


" So the position now is that with one exception 
you have heard the stories of all the witnesses who 
have been able to throw any light on the subject. 

" It is the duty of the Court to be satisfied upon 
several points, amongst them, how Agnes Kesson 
came to her death. This Court is going to see that 
that duty is done. It cannot be done to-day. 

"It is quite clear that somebody knows some- 
thing. Somebody is keeping back something which 
has not been produced in evidence so far. 
You have not heard any direct evidence at all as 
to where Agnes Kesson was on Tuesday afternoon 
and evening. I say someone is keeping something 
back, and the whole truth has not been told you 

With which cryptic words the coroner again 
adjourned his inquiry until August 13th. 

In the meantime the police continued their 
investigations with unflagging zeal. An interesting 
development was the removal of a stair from the 
cellar steps of Mr. Deats's cafe at Burgh Heath, so 
that certain stains might be chemically examined. 
Subsequently it was returned by Superintendent 
Brown with, it was said, the remark, " It is no good. 
It has not helped us". To which Mr. Deats 
replied, "I never expected it would". 

Another interesting development was the appear- 
ance on the scene of an old man named Gorringe, 
who, while attending the races at Epsom, stayed 
at The Nook two nights, occupying, it was said, 
the room that had formerly been Miss Kesson's. 


He declared that he had seen Miss Kesson twice 
the same afternoon at the races. She was accom- 
panied, he said, by a young man, who walked in a 
jaunty, swaggering manner, and was dressed in a 
grey suit, and wore a cap and brown boots. 

There were several other people who were 
supposed to have seen Agnes Kesson, or thought 
they had seen her, shortly before her body was 
found. One of these was a woman named Crawford 
who lived at Epsom and who said that on the 
morning of Derby Day she saw a man and a girl, 
whom she believed was Miss Kesson. They called 
to ask for a needle and cotton to repair a hole in 
the girl's stocking. She identified the stocking at 
the inquest. 

Somebody else was supposed to have seen her 
on Derby day, shortly after the big race, accom- 
panied by a broad-shouldered young man, about 
twenty-seven and clean-shaven. 

A "titled woman", living at Brighton, informed 
the police that she saw two men with a car on the 
night of the murder in the lane where the body 
was found. She thought the men were handling 
a sack, but she would not be able to identify them. 

All these clues, if such they could be called, were, 
it must be admitted, of a rather vague description. 
The men whom the supposed Agnes Kesson was 
with might not have had anything to do with 
the crime, and the woman may not have been 
Agnes Kesson at all. At all events nothing came of 
any of the clues, none of the men were traced, nor 


did any of them come forward in response to the 
police invitation to do so. 

Sir Bernard Spilsbury was able to supply some 
interesting and valuable details as to the nature of 
the murder. He said that the deceased girl had 
been strangled with a cord, after having been 
struck over the head with some heavy, blunt 
instrument. He also said that she probably had a 
meal within two hours of her death. Where did 
she have this ? It might have been indoors some- 
where with the man or men who afterwards 
murdered her, subsequently conveying her body — 
possibly in a sack — to the lane where it was found. 
Since there was no evidence of a struggle having 
taken place on the spot, and no medical evidence 
that she had struggled, it seems pretty certain that 
the murder was not committed where the body 
was found. In addition to this there was nobody 
who came forward to say that they had heard 
anything in the shape of a cry at that spot on 
that night — with the exception of the man who 
said that he heard a scream and looked out of 
his bedroom window — already referred to. This 
incident, however, may not have had anything to 
do with the crime. The police, at all events, were 
quite satisfied that the murder had taken place 
elsewhere, and that the body had been conveyed 
to the ditch where it was found. 

Weeks went by and still no solution to this 
baffling mystery was forthcoming. The police were 
at a "loose end". Not the least mysterious feature 


of the tragedy was that of motive. What could the 
motive have been ? It was true that the girl's gold 
watch, handbag and clothes were missing, but 
they were scarcely of sufficient value to constitute 
a motive. It was also inexplicable why she should 
have been so scantily clad. There was no evidence 
of her having been outraged. 

The question of motive in murder cases is always 
very uncertain and intriguing. Some criminologists 
have sought to provide a solution by calling the 
motive the "removal" of a person. All murders, 
however, can be put into that category, for all 
murderers desire the "removal" of their victim. 
That is obvious and apparent. But in many cases 
of murder the true motive is subtle, and lies far 
below the surface. An effort is sometimes made to 
mask it, as it were, by creating the impression that 
the murder was committed for some commonplace 
reason, like that, for instance, of robbery. This is 
quite a frequent form of camouflage, particularly 
in cases of what are known as "brothel murders". 
In the Epsom case the motive was certainly not 
robbery. What was it ? If that question could be 
answered the solution of the mystery would at 
once be achieved. I mean as to the author of the 
murder. At no time, however, was the motive 

The inquest was again resumed on August 14th 
and was prolific of "dramatic incidents". The 


gentleman named Gorringe, already referred to, 
went into the witness-box and told his story in 
detail. He explained that he had come forward as 
he saw in a newspaper that his evidence was 
desired. He twice saw the couple on the Epsom 
racecourse, he repeated, at first near the St. 
Dunstan's marquee on the course, between 3.30 
and 3.45, and subsequently, after the last race, he 
got off a stile near Tattenham Corner in order to 
allow them to cross. He said that he had no doubt 
that the girl was Miss Kesson, who had served him 
at the tea-rooms at Burgh Heath. He described 
the man as wearing a grey suit, a soft collar and tie, 
brown shoes and fancy socks. He had very dark 

In reply to the coroner as to whether he knew 
who Miss Kesson's companion was, the witness said : 

"I have come to the conclusion that the same 
young man I have seen lives in this district. I have 
a vivid recollection I have spoken to him. Whether 
he told me he lived at Sutton or Kingswood I do 
not know. I am positively certain I have seen 
him previous to the time I saw him here." 

That was the sum and substance of his testimony. 

The most important event of the day was the 
recalling of Mr. F. W. Beats. He was apparently 
deaf, and the coroner had to repeat his opening 
question several times before the witness appeared 
to hear him. Said the coroner: 

*'Mr. Beats, I do not quite know whether you 
fully reahse the purpose of this inquiry. In arriving 


at their verdict the jury will have to decide how 
much they believe, and how much they do not 
believe, you understand?" 

"Yes," replied Beats. 

''I am explaining this to you," continued the 
coroner, " to enable you to do full justice to your- 

The coroner then recalled the incident in con- 
nection with the missing account-book and the fact 
that Mr. Beats went to the police-station to get a 

"Suppose," said the coroner, "that a witness 
comes into this court and says on oath that you 
knew where that book was on the Sunday, what 
would you say ?" 

"That he or she is telling a lie," promptly replied 

The coroner then reverted to the incident of 
the tap on the window and asked the witness if he 
had found the Mrs. Smith he had been sent to 
pick up. Beats replied, 

"Mrs. Smith is Mrs. Greenhalgh. I did not 
think of her in that name, and I did not think it 
was her I would have to pick up." 

The coroner pointed out that the witness was 
now telling the court that there was no Mrs. Smith 
but a Mrs. Greenhalgh. 

"Mrs. Smith is Mrs. Greenhalgh," explained 
Beats, "but I knew them as Smiths. I believe 
her sister is still Miss Smith. I have often picked 
up Mrs. Greenhalgh's brother." 


"You told the jury," said the coroner, "you did 
not see this person who tapped at the window ?" 
I just saw his face with a cap," repUed Deats. 
Have you seen him since ?" asked the coroner. 

"No," repUed Deats. "It must be somebody 
who knew that I let cars on hire, and somebody 
who knew Mrs. Smith, of Cannon Lane. It might 
have been somebody at Burgh Heath, but I am 
rather at a loss about it, as I have been sent on so 
many wild-goose journeys." 

Then, in a somewhat insinuating voice, the 
coroner put this to the witness: 

"There is one little point, to do yourself justice, 
you might explain. You said that on the same 
night the telephone bell rang and somebody asked 
you to pick them up at Kingswood Station, and 
you said no. Can you explain how it was you 
refused this offer?" 

"I already had the other," replied Deats. "One 
would have been five shillings and the other two- 

The coroner then asked why he had not called 
either his son or Harper, and he replied that it was 
not worth calling them out for half-a-crown. 

"I am quite sure you realise the seriousness of 
this," said the coroner impressively. " It is necessary 
or desirable for you to produce the person who, you 
say, gave you that order." 

"Well," replied Deats, "I took it as a wild-goose 
chase. I think it was done for devilment, because 
they knew I was a bit ratty that night." 


"Who by?" asked the coroner. 
You cannot tell," vaguely replied Deats. 
I am asking you to tell," pressed the coroner. 
You cannot mention names," protested Deats. 
" If the person would only willingly come forward 
who tapped on my window, let them. Then they 
cannot say I have any spite." 

"Just take up that oath card and read it," 
requested the coroner. 

Deats picked up the card and commented on the 
words : " I have sworn. I have told the truth and the 
whole truth, but on this particular occasion " 

The coroner interrupted him. 

"Mr. Deats," he said, "you have sworn to tell 
the truth and the whole truth, and now you are 
saying you are keeping something back." 

Deats made no reply, but stood in the box in a 
thoughtful mood. The coroner watched him closely 
and then again asked him whether he did not 
know who the person was who tapped on his 
window. At length said the witness: 

"I say ," mentioning the name of a neigh- 
bour. "They are opposition people to me," he 
added by way of explanation. 

"Then why," asked the coroner, "have you not 
told us about this man, Mr. , before?" 

"Because it is public," replied Deats. "If we 
are trying to catch a man we must not tell everyone 
what we are after. If we do, the man will cover 
up every track he can. I did, in fact, mention the 
matter to the police." 


Then the coroner proceeded: 

"Assuming that Mr. or the family, 

altogether or individually, deny anything about it, 
we are back again to the original question of 
whether you can produce them." 

"I could not go any further," admitted Deats. 

" Mr. is the only person I can think of. I have 

had opposition from them ever since I went into 
those premises. I have even had to put a fence up 
to stop the annoyance." 

The witness, being asked if he could remember 
anything further, observed: 

" Well, I can't say, although I know of a young 
man who has never turned up to our place from 
the Tuesday. I don't think it is of any importance, 
though why he should stop away I don't know." 

"What is his name?" asked the coroner. 

Mr. " rephed Deats. 

Have you told the police ?" 
No, because we never thought of it until this 
morning. I could not tell you his address. We 
have seen him go by, but he has not been to our 
place since. He was often talking to the girl, but 
I do not think he would do anything wrong." 

That concluded the evidence of Mr. Deats. 

The next witness was the female shorthand-typist, 
who used to keep Mr. Deats's books. Miss Winifred 
Annie Woodhouse. She said she searched for the 
account-book on the Saturday before Miss Kesson 
left the tea-rooms. She was assisted by Mr. and 
Mrs. Deats and Harper. They failed to find it. 





On the Sunday Deats told her that Miss Kesson 
was leaving and that he did not like it. 

"Did he say if he had found the book?" asked 
the coroner. 

"Yes," replied the witness. "He said he had 
found it that Sunday morning, burned in the grate, 
but intact." 

This led to a "scene". The coroner asked Deats 
to come forward and stand facing Miss Woodhouse, 
which Deats at once did. Then the coroner thus 
addressed him: 

"Miss Woodhouse has sworn that, on Sunday, 
June I St, you went to her house in the afternoon, 
and she asked you if you had found the book. She 
said that you said, 'Yes, burned in the grate, but 

"I did not say that," replied Deats, although 
he admitted that he must have said "something 
similar." He went on to explain: "I was paid on 
the Monday morning, June 2nd, in respect of an 
account in the missing book". 

That concluded the evidence of Miss Woodhouse, 
and her place in the witness-box was taken by 
Mrs. Elsie Louise Greenhalgh, of Cannon Lane, 
Burgh Heath, who said that her maiden name was 
Smith. She stated that Mr. Deats asked her if she 
knew a Welshman or had one lodging with her. 
He then explained that someone had tapped on 
his window and asked him to meet Mrs. Smith, of 
Cannon Lane. He, thinking it was something to 
do with her, said he went to meet a train at Sutton 


Station. She told him she was not expecting any- 
one at all. Then said Beats, "I was out late with 
the car and I should like you to say you were 
expecting somebody". 

Mrs. Greenhalgh said that she told him that she 
could not do that as she was not expecting any-^ 
body. She then went on to explain to Mr. Beats 
that she had received a letter from one of her 
brothers, and that he would have been the one 
she might have been expecting. Then, she said. 
Beats appealed to her to help him by saying that 
she was expecting her brother. She would not 
agree and Beats then went away. Subsequently, 
explained Mrs. Greenhalgh, she received messages 
from Beats, sent through one of her children, asking 
if she had any gentlemen to see her, appealing to 
her to answer '' yes or no". 

Mrs. Greenhalgh then said that she had had to 
go to Mr. Beats for relief, as the relieving officer 
attended at Mr. Beats's shop, and as she had 
ignored the messages sent by Beats, the latter 
waylaid her. He called her by name, but she took 
no notice of him. She said that he even followed 
her all the way to the school road, still calling her, 
but that she told him she was in a hurry. 

"I was so afraid of Mr. Beats' appearance," she 
said, "when I turned round that the next week 
I took my sister with me." 

Her evidence continued: 

" When I got into Mr. Beats' shop the following 
Thursday Mrs. Beats flew at me, and asked me 


what I meant by not waiting to see what Mr. Deats 
had to say to me. I would not discuss anything 
with her. When I came out she accused me of 
telhng Ues. I said I had not, and did not wish to 
discuss anything with her. She then said, 'I have 
been a good friend to you, and you will suffer for 
this'. I walked out of the shop. The reheving 
officer heard every word. I was afraid of Mrs. 
Deats' appearance at the time. She looked to me 
like a mad woman. I walked out of the shop and 
sent to Scotland Yard and informed them of the 
way I had been treated. Since then I have been 
nowhere near the shop." 

The coroner then directed that that part of the 
evidence that referred to Mr. Deats should be read 
over to him, and Deats left his seat and stood by 
the clerk while the evidence was read over to him. 
When the clerk came to the passage: "It would 
be a great help to me if you could say he was 
coming", Deats shook his head and said, "That is 
entirely wrong. I had no reason why I should say 

Mrs. Deats was then called to the witness-box 
and Mrs. Greenhalgh's statement read over to 

"There are two lies in it,'* said Mrs. Deats, and 
then, turning to Mrs. Greenhalgh, she asked her : 
"Did I say to you that Mr. Deats wants to see you 
a minute ?" 

"No, not to my knowledge," replied Mrs. 


"Yes, I did," insisted Mrs. Beats. "I have had 
some of you before. I have been a good friend to 

*'I have had enough of it," chimed in Mrs. 

At another stage in the reading over of the 
evidence of Mrs. Greenhalgh, Mrs. Beats ex- 
claimed : 

"Cut that out!" 

"You accused me of telling you lies," said Mrs. 
Greenhalgh. " My sister was there to hear it." 

"Then," said Mrs. Beats, "your sister is as big 
a liar as you are." 

At which retort there was laughter in court. 

All these cordial conversational exchanges, how- 
ever, were not carrying the case forward towards a 
solution of the mystery. Eventually the hearing 
was again postponed until September 15th. Just 
prior to this, however, an unusual incident occurred. 
The proceedings had been closed, as usual, by the 
coroner's officer calling upon any person who can 
give information to come forward and be heard, 
when the coroner directed the officer to go outside 
and call the proclamation there. This was done 
and when the officer returned the coroner asked 
him if there had been any reply, and the officer 
said, "No reply, sir". That concluded the hearing. 
This incident was supposed to have had some 
connection with the coroner's announcement, made 
at a previous hearing, to the effect that "someone 
was keeping something back". 


The final sitting of the coroner's inquest was 
held on September I5th5 when a new witness was 
called. This was a man named Hodson, of Water- 
loo Road, S.E., who said that on Derby Day he 
met a young woman, with whom he got into 
conversation. He described her as being of middle 
height, about ten or eleven stone in weight and very 
dark. She wore a tam-o'-shanter hat. He was 
with her most of the afternoon, up till about 7.15 
p.m. While walking along the London Road with 
her a motor car suddenly drove up and took her 
away. When the car pulled up a man got out and 
got hold of the girl, said the witness. At the same 
time he said, "I have just had enough of you". 
To which the girl replied, "I am fed up with you". 
Or words to that effect. 

The witness was asked to describe the man, and 
he said he was dark, with rather piercing eyes. 
His shirt was open at the neck. It was rather 
difficult to see whether he was clean-shaven or not, 
said Hodson, as he was very dark and dirty looking. 
The car, he said, was of a hackney carriage type. 
Someone else was driving, but he could not see 
who it was. He said he had since seen the man 
who jumped out of the car, while he was with 
Police Sergeant Wells, outside a garage. The 
witness was then asked if he saw the man in court. 
Hodson then gazed round the court and suddenly 
stopping, raised his arm and pointed at Mr. Deats. 
"Yes," he said, "he is there. That is the fellow." 

The witness went on to explain, when requested 


by the coroner, how he came to make this identi- 
fication outside a garage. He had communicated 
with the pohce and had been taken out in a motor- 
car by detectives. On the way he described where 
he and the girl had wandered over the Downs and 
through various streets, the detectives making notes 
all the time. When they got outside the garage — 
presumably that belonging to Mr. Deats — he saw 
Deats drive up in a car and said that is the man. 
The car also, he said, looked like the one that had 
picked up the girl. 

Hodson was then asked to explain how he came 
to report the matter to the police, and he supplied 
the following particulars. He said that he heard 
them talking about it in Romford, and it all came 
back to him when he heard the name Deats. The 
girl he had been with was Scotch and spoke with 
a strong accent. She told him that she was working 
for a man named "Dates". This, it then occurred 
to him, might have been her way of pronouncing 
the name "Deats". 

The coroner further pressed the witness for 
additional details as to the girl's dress, and Hodson 
said she had a coat over her arm and a blue jumper 
with a pleated skirt to match. She was very dark 
and had good teeth. The witness added that the 
car that took the girl away went on to London. 
He confessed that he did not even then know 
whether it was the girl or not. 

The witness was cross-examined by Mr. Thesiger, 
and explained in reply to questions that he went 


to the races on Thursday and Friday and slept at 
Epsom Station on the Thursday night. He stayed 
the week-end in London. It was when he was in 
the market-place at Romford that he first began 
to connect the incident of the girl he met with the 
Epsom case. It was when he saw a newspaper 
placard with the words, "Deats questioned in the 
witness-box" on it. He first met the woman 
against Tattenham Corner. She spoke first. She 
said " It's a bonnie afternoon," or something of the 

Dectective Sergeant Wells was the next witness. 
He described the incidents of the drive with Hodson 
as a passenger. When outside the garage Hodson 
saw a man standing by a motor-bicycle, and said 
that he looked like the man who caught hold of 
the car. It was then that a Daimler car drove up 
and Hodson said that the driver looked like the 
man who caught hold of the girl. He also said 
that the car looked like the same one. He, Wells, 
duly reported the details. 

Apparently not much importance was attached 
to the evidence of Hodson, as it disagreed with 
other facts which were known to be correct. For 
instance, P.C. James Rose described Miss Kesson 
as "on the fair side". He also said she had no 
blue jumper with pleated skirt to match. There 
were also other details in Hodson's evidence which 
did not tally. 

At this stage the coroner said to Superintendent 
Brown, "Do you feel that any further information 


can, at any time, be brought to my notice ?" To 
which the officer repUed, "No, not within a reason- 
able time". 

The coroner then proceeded to sum up. 

He pointed out to the jury that if they accepted 
the evidence that Agnes Kesson died four to eight 
hours before 6 a.m., and she had a meal two hours 
before death, it would be reasonable for them to 
consider very closely the evidence of anything that 
happened during that material time — from lo 
o'clock or later on Wednesday night, until two or 
thereabouts on Thursday morning. He also re- 
ferred to the fact that the evidence of Mr. Deats 
was that he was driving towards the main Brighton 
road on his way to Sutton in response to a message, 
following a tap on the window. On the other hand 
a police officer said that he turned to the right, 
away from Sutton. He also pointed out that the 
description given by Hodson of the hair and clothes 
of the young woman did not agree with that of 
the police. 

The summing-up occupied about forty minutes. 

The jury retired and were back again in court 
in six minutes. Their verdict was the one generally 
anticipated, namely, an "open" one. They found 
that the girl had been murdered by strangulation, 
but that there was not sufficient evidence to show 
by whom. 

And there the matter has remained ever since. 

It is altogether a perplexing case. Not the least 
mysterious feature of it is the absence, or apparent 


absence, of motive. The salient facts are: She 
was young and good-looking. Ahhough there 
were some articles belonging to her missing, it was 
clearly not a case of robbery. She had received a 
telephonic message shortly before she left the cafe. 
She clearly intended to go to a new berth. As she 
had had a meal two hours before her murder, the 
latter must have been committed indoors some- 
where and the body removed to where it was found. 
There is a striking similarity between this case 
and that of the murder of a girl in Richmond 
Park a short time ago. In the latter case the man 
was caught and hanged. But precisely the same 
features will be found in both cases. It seems pretty 
obvious that the reason that Miss Kesson did not 
arrive at Carshalton was because she met some- 
body with whom she spent a good deal of time — 
a meeting that culminated in her murder. Although 
medical evidence proved that no attempt had been 
made to outrage her, this does not wholly exclude 
the hypothesis that her murderer had designs in 
that direction. In the Richmond Park case we 
know that the motive was rape, although the 
assailant did not achieve his object, nor attempt 
to do so. The girl put up an energetic fight and 
murder resulted. We also know that Miss Kesson 
was a hefty Scotch girl and had a violent temper. 
She also, we may be sure, would put up a good 
fight, which would have a similar result as that 
in the Richmond Park case. That it was not 
premeditated seems clearly indicated by the nature 


of the "weapon" — a piece of string, hastily snatched 
up. The blow preceding the strangling also 
suggests the culmination of a murderous and frantic 
struggle. The articles which were missing might 
very- well have been taken with a view to creating 
the impression that it was a murder for robbery, 
and so lead the police away from the true motive. 
As to the identity of the culprit, there is lament- 
ably little evidence to direct one. The police did 
their best, receiving and considering something like 
400 statements. If they really did know in their 
own minds as to who the culprit was — which 
sometimes happens in such cases, as I have had 
occasion to point out before — then they manifestly 
were unable to proceed on that intelligence on 
account of those vexatious limitations of the laws 
of evidence which occasionally hamper them so 
seriously. But as there is no "statute of limitations " 
in regard to the functioning of the criminal law, 
we may yet have a solution vouchsafed in this case 
of most mysterious murder. 



( The Case of Evelyn Foster, Otterburn, January y 


" I HAVE been murdered. I have been murdered." 

Those were the last words uttered by Evelyn 

Foster, the twenty-seven-year-old daughter of a 

garage proprietor at Otterburn, Northumberland. 

Shortly after she died. 

During intermittent periods of consciousness she 
had told a strange story. She was a practised 
motorist and often drove cars about for her father. 
The previous day she had driven three passengers 
to Rochester, a neighbouring village. On her way 
back, she stated, she was accosted by a stranger, 
who spoke to her at Elishaw, a village two miles 
from Otterburn. He said he wanted to go to 
Ponteland in order to catch a bus to Newcastle. 
He arranged to meet Miss Foster at a hotel in the 
village, and he would then tell her if he wanted 
her again. Miss Foster said that she called at the 
hotel, but found that the man had not been there. 
However, she picked him up a few minutes later 
on the bridge, just below the hotel, about 7.30 p.m. 
He then told her to drive him to Newcastle, and 



she took him as far as Belsay. He then stopped her 
again and told her to drive back. When she asked 
him why he wanted to go back, he struck her in 
the eye and tried to get hold of the wheel of the 
car. There was a struggle between the two and 
the man eventually succeeded in getting control 
of the car, which he drove away with Miss Foster 

The car was driven along the road to Otterburn 
until it had arrived at a lonely spot known as 
Wolf's Neck, where the car was turned off the road 
and run down a three-foot bank on to the moor 
for about seventy yards. During this period Miss 
Foster said she must have been unconscious, for 
she was suddenly brought to her senses by the 
jerking or jolting of the car as it passed over the 
uneven ground. The man, she explained, then got 
out, took something out of his pocket, and applied 
a light to it. There followed a blaze and a muffled 
explosion. Miss Foster felt as though she was being 
suffocated and struggled to get to the door of the 
car. She at length managed to open it and crawl 
out of the car. She then remembered seeing a 
man going back to the road. She shortly 
after heard another car coming along the road, 
which was followed by whispering. She then 
saw the man get into the car, which was driven 

It was then about 8.30 in the evening. About 
an hour later one of Mr. Foster's buses was returning 
along the road from Newcastle, being driven by a 


Mr. Johnson. The latter saw a motor-car smoulder- 
ing on the moors and pulled up. He and the 
conductor then went to investigate. They were 
astonished to find that it was a car belonging to 
their own firm. Then they heard moans and found 
Miss Foster lying on the ground. They at once 
took her home, where she died a few hours after, 
as already described. 

It was said that both Miss Foster's eyes were 
black and blue from the blows she had received, 
and nearly all the skin was burned from her body. 
It was a wonder she had lived as long as she did. 
The police were notified and took steps at once to 
trace the assailant. They circulated to all the 
surrounding stations the description of the man 
as supplied by Miss Foster while she was in extremis. 
He was described as a man with a Tyneside accent, 
about 5 ft. 6 in. high and aged about twenty-five 
or twenty-six, clean-shaven, wearing a dark tweed 
suit, a bowler hat and an overcoat. She also said 
that he had a plausible tongue and seemed to be a 
man of some education. He told her that he had 
a car of his own, and all the time he was in the car 
he was smoking cigarettes. 

No trace whatever could be found of this man. 
It was thought he must have had a good knowledge 
of the locality to be able to so effectually disappear 
without leaving a trace behind him. The last bus 
to Newcastle left Otterburn at 7.30, so that the man 
must have been picked up by a passing motor-car. 
Another detail supplied by Miss Foster was the fact 


that the man had told her that he had been picked 
up by a party of motorists at Jedburgh. They were 
on their way to Hexham. He had had tea with 
them at Jedburgh. They were said to have been 
in a dark saloon car. The police tried to get in 
touch with them so that they might get a fuller 
description of the assailant, but failed to do so. 
They could not be traced any more than the man 

The murder appeared to be motiveless. It was 
not robbery, for Miss Foster's bag, containing about 
30J., was found near the car, the contents being 
untouched. There was no trace of an outrage 
having been attempted, nor did Miss Foster say 
that any such attempt had been made. While 
driving back from Belsay, she said, the man had 
offered her a cigarette, and when she refused he 
remarked, "I see you are one of those independent 

The ordeal through which Miss Foster had 
passed was a very severe one. All her clothes had 
been burned off and she was exposed to the effects 
of a keen frost. She was rolUng about in agony, 
moaning and sucking the grass, and asking for water. 

The burned car was removed from the scene 
and taken back to the garage at Otterburn, where 
it was carefully examined by the police. In the 
back of the car was a burned-out petrol tin. It 
was the custom to always keep a full two-gallon tin 
in the car for emergencies. 

Miss Foster was a good-looking young woman, 


had driven cars for her father for years, and was 
very popular in the district, where, of course, she 
was well known. 

The driver of the bus, Mr. Johnson, later added 
fresh details. 

He said that it was by the merest chance that 
he saw the blazing car. The flames had nearly all 
died down and only the back wheel was still 
burning. At first he thought there was nobody in 
the car, that it was, in fact, abandoned. But upon 
looking closer he observed the girl on the ground. 
She was lying face downwards about nine or ten 
yards from the car. She was bare from the waist 
downwards. She seemed to be licking the ice on 
the ground. He wrapped her in his overcoat and 
took her home. On the way she kept muttering, 
"Oh, that awful man. He has gone in a motor- 
car''. Over and over again she kept exclaiming, 
"Oh, that awful man". 

The police took the unusual step of having a 
message broadcasted by the B.B.C. containing a 
description of the motor-car party who were 
supposed to have picked up the assailant. It ran 
as follows: 

"The police are anxious to trace a four-seater 
closed, dark-coloured car, index mark TN, with 
a number consisting of four figures, the last figure 
or figure but one being a two. The car was described 
as possibly an Essex, and had left the Reesdale 
Hotel, near Otterburn, Northumberland, about 
7 p.m., with three men of the following description: 



First. About 28, 5ft. Sin. in height; short, 
dark moustache, very bad teeth, dark hair, thin in 
front; dressed in dark overcoat with broad belt, 
and wearing a thin blue-striped collar. 
Vf Second. About 40, 5ft. 5in. in height; broad 
face, prominent cheek bones, very bad teeth, 
practically none in upper jaw; wearing slate- 
coloured suit, no overcoat or hat, badly in need of 
a shave. Wearing a thin blue-striped turndown 

"Third. About 30, 5ft. yin. in height, well 
built; wearing a blue overcoat and had no hat. 

"All the men speaking with a Scottish accent. 

"The destination of the car is believed to be 
London, and it had come from Scotland via 

Although it had not been considered necessary 
to enlist the aid of Scotland Yard, the latter were 
rendering a certain measure of assistance. 

Shortly after these three men were found and 
interviewed by the police. They said that they 
gave no lift to anybody of the description of the 
"wanted" man. So away went that "clue". 
Other clues were the discovery of a footprint, a 
glove and a cap near the burned-out car. But 
like the other clues they led to nothing. 

A Mr. W. Jennings, a motor-car expert of 
Morpeth, supplied an interesting theory of how the 
car left the road and finished in flames on the moor. 
He said that the car was apparently pulled up at 
the side of the road, on the right hand, coming 


from Newcastle to Otterburn. It was then, he 
said, re-started and driven over the six-foot embank- 
ment of rough stones, in gear, locked to the right. 
There must have been somebody at the wheel, as 
the car was righted after it had crossed a ditch 
about thirty yards from where it went over. It 
seemed evident that the car must have been fired 
after it had stopped, as there was no trace of 
burning in its wake. Had, on the other hand, the 
car been burning it must have charred the bracken 
and grass over which it passed. A close examination 
of the car proved that there was no reason why it 
should have taken fire itself. Therefore it must 
have been deliberately fired by an outside agency. 
There was no evidence of a struggle in the car 
having caused it to go over the side, nor any sign 
of a skid on the road. Another interesting fact 
was that the spot where the car left the road was 
the only place where the car could be driven off 
the road. The plug of the petrol tank had been 
removed. It might have been jerked out or it 
might have been removed by the murderer in 
order to get more petrol with which to fire the car. 
Professor Stuart MacDonald, the well-known 
pathologist, of the College of Medicine, Newcastle, 
was called in to consult with Dr. McEachran, of 
Bellingham, who made the post-mortem examin- 
ation. Mr. P. M. Dodds, the coroner, opened the 
inquest on the afternoon of Thursday, January 8th, 
at the Otterburn Memorial Hall. Prior to that 
Mr. Dodds, accompanied by Police Inspector 


Russell and other officers, visited the spot on the 
moor where the car was found and made an 
examination of the patch of burned heather. They 
were closely watched by a large crowd of sightseers, 
\vl^ch had gathered from all parts, and the scene 
generally reminded one of a "reconstruction" of a 
crime in France. 

Only a short time before the deceased girl. Miss 
Foster, had attended a Boxing Night dance at the 
Memorial Hall where the inquest on her body was 
held. In fact, the festive decorations had not yet 
been removed, and just above the coroner's table 
hung a withered bunch of mistletoe. 

At the outset the coroner pointed out that the 
case presented many difficulties and that a great 
deal of investigation had yet to be done. He also 
intimated that a considerable time must elapse 
before the inquest could be resumed, but that 
would depend largely on what transpired during 
the next few days. The only witness was the father 
of the dead girl, Mr. J. J. Foster, a short, well- 
built, sturdy-looking man, with grey hair. He 
gave formal evidence of identification, when the 
inquest was provisionally adjourned until February 

In the meantime nothing of much importance 
had transpired, certainly nothing very enlightening, 
and on February 2nd the inquest was duly resumed. 
The coroner said in opening that he was prepared 
to sit on the following day as well and then make 
another short adjournment. By this time the 


interest in the case had become greatly intensified 
and many people, some of whom had travelled 
many miles through the wintry weather to be 
present, crowded round the hall with the hope of 
getting inside. Among the jury was the vicar of 
Otterburn, who had officiated at the funeral of the 
victim, the local postmaster and other local trades- 
men, all of whom had known Miss Foster well. 
The police, of course, were in full attendance, 
bringing with them many "exhibits" and innumer- 
able documents. 

The first witness was the mother of the dead 
girl, Mrs. Margaret Foster. She gave a detailed 
account of the movements and statements of her 
daughter prior to and subsequent to the tragedy. 
She said that her daughter left home at 6.35 p.m. 
in order to take some passengers who had arrived 
at Otterburn by omnibus on to Rochester. She 
returned from Rochester about 7 o'clock and said 
that a man she had brought from Elishaw wanted 
to go on to Ponteland in order to catch a bus. 

At this stage the coroner made a statement to 
the jury. He warned them that the evidence about 
to be given by the witness constituted a statement 
made by her daughter while she lay in a dying 
condition. He pointed out that they must not 
take it as evidence of fact, but merely as a line of 
inquiry, so that it might be compared with other 
evidence which would be given, so as to determine 
whether it was true or not. 

Mrs. Foster then went on to relate the details 


of the Story as given to her by her daughter, much 
of which has already been presented to the reader. 
The man, said her daughter, aUghted from a car 
at Ehshaw, and said he had missed the Scottish 
bus at Jedburgh. He wanted a Uft to Ponteland. 
She said the man looked respectable and a gentle- 
man and "a bit of a knut". He asked her what 
the charge would be and she told him ^'z. She 
then brought him to Otterburn, afterwards making 
her way to the garage for petrol. Her intention 
was to pick him up again at the Percy Arms, in the 
village. Her sister, Dorothy, suggested that she 
should take with her a young man named George 
Philipson, with whom she was then keeping 
company. With this Mrs. Foster agreed, said she 
thought it was a good idea, and that she might pick 
him up in the village. To this the girl agreed and 
then drove away. 

Mrs. Foster saw no more of her daughter until 
she was brought home in a dying condition a few 
hours after. When she asked her daughter what 
had happened the girl replied, "It was that man; 
he hit me and burned me". Her mother then 
asked her why she did not take young Philipson 
with her, and she replied that she did not see him 
as she passed through the village. A doctor, a 
nurse and the police were summoned. The girl 
then told her story of what had happened. She 
said they went through Belsay, passing two cars 
which she thought she knew. At Belsay her 
passenger said there was no bus there, but Miss 


Foster told him that there might be one further on. 
Later the man said he would go back, and Miss 
Foster asked him why, as they had gone so far. 
The man replied, "That has got nothing to do 
with you ". 

Miss Foster said she then turned the car round 
and felt the man "creeping along the seat". He 
took hold of the steering wheel and said he would 
drive back. He also struck her in the eye with his 
hand. Her eye was sore, she could scarcely see, 
and it felt as though there was "sand in it". The 
man was then sitting next to her, holding the wheel. 
They stopped at the top of the hill by Wolf's Jaw. 
It was then he asked her to have a cigarette and 
on her refusing, made the remark, "Well, you are 
an independent young woman". 

The man then, said Miss Foster, started knocking 
her about, and pushed her into the back of the car. 
She said she fought for her life. The man then 
took something from his pocket and threw it over 
her. It was a "bottle or a tin" and she then "just 
went up in a blaze". All she felt afterwards for 
some time was a bump, as though the car was going 
over rough ground. She said she was all ablaze, 
did not know how she got out of the car, and was 
sucking the grass, she was so thirsty. She said she 
next thought she heard a whistle, and a "squeaking 
or scrunching" sound, and thought it was a motor- 
car. But she did not know which way it went. 

Mrs. Foster questioned her daughter about this 
man, and Miss Foster said that the man said he 


did not know much about Newcastle and that he 
Hved down in the Midlands. She also asked hei 
daughter about the car from which the man 
alighted at Elishaw, and she said that there was a 
woman in the driver's seat and two men at the back. 

The coroner asked Mrs. Foster what was the 
mental condition of her daughter when she made 
this statement, and Mrs. Foster replied, "Perfectly 
lucid and sane". 

"Do you think that at any time she thought she 
was going to die ?" asked the coroner. 

"I don't know," replied Mrs. Foster. "She did 
say to the nurse that she thought that she would 
not get over it. To me she said : ' Mother, my eyes 
are swollen up. I can't see. I wonder if I shall 
see again'." 

"Had you any cause for anxiety that night?" 
asked the coroner. 

"No," replied Mrs. Foster. "She was used to 
driving, but generally someone went with her at 

"It was really an exceptional thing on this 
particular night that she was alone?" observed 
the coroner, and Mrs. Foster agreed that it was. 

Here the examination of the witness was taken 
up by Mr. Smirk, a solicitor representing the 
police. He asked Mrs. Foster about the description 
of the man as given by her daughter. Mrs. Foster 
replied that the only description given by her was 
that he was dark, clean-shaven and wore a dark 
overcoat and a bowler hat. Mr. Smirk then 


pointed out to the witness that she had from time 
to time made several statements to the poUce, but 
that until to-day she had never used the phrase, 
"looked like a bit of a knut". Mrs. Foster agreed 
that that was so. The coroner then eased matters 
by remarking that Mrs. Foster had said before 
that the man was well dressed, which was probably 
what her daughter meant. 

The inquest was adjourned, and resumed the 
following day. A roadman named Kennedy, of 
Knowlesgate, a village on the main road between 
Otterburn and Belsay, gave evidence. He said he 
was on the main road at Kirkwhelpington on the 
evening of January 6th, walking north towards 
Knowlesgate. Shortly after 8 o'clock a dark 
saloon car, travelling very fast, overtook him. A 
man was driving it and he saw part of his face 
through the glass as the car flashed past. He saw 
nobody else in the car. He visited the scene of 
the tragedy the day after it occurred. He was 
cross-examined by Mr. T. H. Smith, representing 
the police, who suggested to the witness that he 
had never said anything to the police about the 
car in question until he had been approached by 
the police ten days afterwards. The witness replied 
that he had mentioned it to a police-constable, 
but could not be definite about it. 

The next witness was a motor salesman of 
Hawick, named Beatty, who on January 6th drove 
a car from Darlington to Hawick, passing through 
Durham, Ponteland and Belsay. He reached 


home about 10.50 p.m. In passing the spot known 
as Wolf's Jaw he saw a blaze on the right hand 
side. He saw smoke and flames and slowed down 
and put on his brakes. He was asked if his brakes 
squeaked at all and he replied that they did not. 
This was, of course, in reference to the statement 
made by Miss Foster that she thought she heard 
a squeaking or scrunching. 

Beatty said he looked towards the flames and 
saw that it was a car. He saw no movement. The 
car appeared to be burned out. He reckoned that 
it had been burning for about half an hour. He 
thought it had been abandoned, so he drove on. 
The time was then between 9.30 and 10 p.m. 

The brother of Miss Foster then gave evidence. 
On January 7th he visited the scene of the tragedy 
with Inspector Russell and noticed that the car 
was in low gear. He saw his sister shortly before 
she started for Rochester with passengers, and 
after she was brought home injured. He asked her 
whether it was the man whom she had taken to 
Ponteland who had injured her, and she said it 
was and described him as being a little taller than 
her brother, but not so stout. He wore a bowler 
hat and dark overcoat. 

The police then gave evidence of being present 
when Miss Foster made her statement and suggesting 
some of the questions. 

The inquest was again adjourned, and resumed 
on February 5th. Important evidence was now 
given by Professor Stuart MacDonald, pathologist 


of Durham University, and by Dr. McEachran, 
of Bellingham, who was called in to Miss Foster 
when she was brought home injured. Another 
doctor, a Dr. Miller, was also in attendance. Dr. 
McEachran said that Miss Foster was suffering 
from shock and burns, and that there was little 
chance of her recovery. He was present, he explained 
while Miss Foster was being questioned, and he 
agreed with Mrs. Foster that the girl was at the 
time quite lucid and sane. 

Then came Professor McDonald, who, on January 
8th, with the assistance of Dr. McEachran, held 
the post-mortem examination. He read out from 
his notes the following details: 

"The features were obscured by burns, but there 
appeared to be discoloration about the root of the 
nose. Extensive burns were distributed about 
various parts of the body. No external marks 
suggesting injury apart from the burns were found 
on any other part of the body. An internal examina- 
tion showed no injuries except severe burning. 
From these appearances we are of opinion that 
the cause of death was shock, the result of severe 
external burning. The distribution of the burns 
and their severity suggest that certain portions of 
the clothing had contained some inflammable 
substance. The distribution of the burned areas 
suggests that Miss Foster was sitting during some 
period of the burning. The situation of other 
burns indicates that there had been splashes of 
an inflammable liquid." 


Professor MacDonald said there was no evidence 
of outrage. He had examined a bunch of heather, 
two bunches of grass, a door handle of the car 
and a portion of the mudguard for bloodstains, 
but the results were negative. There was absolutely 
no trace or evidence of bruising of the face. There 
were no signs of Miss Foster's arms having been 
nipped, as she had said they had been. Supposing 
that she had been lying in the back of the car, on 
the seat, with her head leaning forward, he could 
quite understand the injuries he found. 

The coroner then put this question: 

"Assuming the car was where you saw it, and 
she threw some petrol into the back of the car and 
set fire to it, with her left leg probably on the 
running board and her right on the edge of the 
step, could the flames have come back and blinded 

"I think it quite possible," replied Professor 
MacDonald. "I cannot quite understand, if that 
were the explanation, why there should have been 
such localisation of burns," he added. 

In reply to Mr. Smirk, he said that he found 
no evidence of the girl having been struck. The 
burns might have been caused in various ways. 

Professor MacDonald was then questioned by 
Mr. E. Bates, who represented the Foster family. 
He said that if petrol were poured over anyone it 
would probably soak through to the back of the 
clothes, which might possibly account for the burns 
at the girl's back. 


"In her statement to her mother," said Mr. 
Bates, " Miss Foster said she was struck in the eye 
and that it felt as if some sand had been thrown 
in. Is that compatible with her having had a light 
blow in the eye ? It would leave no trace ? " 

"No trace," agreed the Professor. 

The Rev. J. Brierly, the vicar of Otterburn and a 
member of the jury, then asked this question: 

"In your examination of the face you say there 
was a bluish discoloration. Does that suggest a 
bruising of the face?" 

"Yes," replied Professor MacDonald. "In a 
microscopical examination I found signs compatible 
with burning. There was really no evidence of 
bruising by a blow." 

The next witness was Mr. W. Jennings, motor 
engineer, of Morpeth. He had examined the wheel 
tracks on the moor and from them inferred that 
the speed of the car, when it left the road, could 
not have been more than ten miles an hour. Which 
of course would be very slow for a car. He went 
on to explain that the erratic nature of the wheel 
marks indicated that the car had been out of 
control, but that later on it had become under 
control again. He considered that the fire had 
been caused by some outside agency after the car 
had stopped. The fire had begun at the rear of 
the body of the car and swept forward in an 
upward direction. 

The coroner then quoted from Miss Foster's 
statement, where she said that the man crept 


along the seat and took hold of the wheel, and 
asked Mr. Jennings: "Could a car be driven that 
way?'* to which Mr. Jennings replied: 

"It would be a very difficult thing to do 
if she acquiesced, or permitted him to drive 
without resisting, and almost impossible if she 

That concluded the evidence. The coroner then 
summed up, his speech to the jury occupying some- 
thing like an hour. I quote some of the most 
pregnant passages from it. After warning the jury 
to dismiss from their minds any rumours they might 
have heard, he said: 

"Crimes are committed in very many ways, 
sometimes for obvious reasons, sometimes for 
reasons unknown, and in this case we are dealing 
with a question as to whether somebody, a stranger, 
is implicated or whether the girl herself has done it. 
I think you will be quite safe in eliminating any 
idea of suicide. There is no evidence of it." 

He then pointed out that the two main points 
were : 

"Was the girl murdered or did she set fire to 
the car and in doing so obtain the burns accident- 
ally ? If it was a case of murder, then the man 
must have been a homicidal maniac. 

"If the girl has done it herself you must con- 
sider what her object might have been. Was her 
object to obtain money through the insurance on 
the car?" 

The coroner proceeded: 


"There were two policies, one for ^{^4505 covering 
the car in a garage only, and another one covering 
cars up to 30 horse-power in the sum of ^^yoo. 

" On the other hand, there are cases of persons 
obsessed with the idea of notoriety. That might 
be a factor in this case." 

The coroner went on to point out to the jury 
that witnesses had said that they did not see a man 
in the car, or get out of the car, when it arrived at 
the Foster garage. It was an astonishing thing, 
he said, that in a short area of about 40 yards, if 
her story were true, nobody had seen the stranger. 
Then again. Miss Foster had said that the car was 
on fire in the road. If this were so it would have 
been impossible to have driven it across the moor. 
Such an idea would be nonsense. It also seemed 
apparent that the cap of the petrol tank had been 
removed before the fire occurred. 

"If the girl did it, how was it done ?" asked the 
coroner. "It has been suggested that she may 
have been standing with one of her feet on the 
step and the other on the running-board, pouring 
petrol on the cushions, and that when she lighted 
it the flames came back and caught her. Is not the 
position of the burns most consistent with a theory 
of this description ? There is no direct evidence 
that the burns were caused by another person." 

The jury then retired and were away over two 
hours. They returned with a verdict that Miss 
Foster had been murdered "by some person or 
persons unknown". 


The coroner then asked them if that meant that 
they found that some individual had wilfully 
poured petrol over Miss Foster and set her on fire, 
and they said that it did. 

The verdict was received by the villagers with 
loudly expressed approval. The verdict, however, 
did not satisfy the girFs father, Mr. J. J. Foster, 
who took exception to some of the observations 
made by the coroner in his summing-up. So he 
wrote a letter to the Home Secretary about it. In 
this he complained that many painful and scandal- 
ous innuendoes were made against his daughter at 
the inquest. He had said that his daughter had 
been accused of herself setting fire to the car to 
obtain insurance money, pointing out that insur- 
ance companies settle a claim on the market 
value of a car and not on the sum for which it 
is insured. 

"There was not a tittle of evidence," he pro- 
tested, "to support these shameful theories, but I 
recognise that they were, perhaps, inevitable, 
distressing though they were to my family. The 
jury's verdict vindicated my girl's integrity and 
good faith." 

The letter then went on to point out that in an 
interview with a newspaper reporter, the Chief 
Constable of Northumberland had stated that the 
verdict was against the weight of evidence. He 
protested against the police defending themselves 
in a case of failure by attacking his dead daughter. 

The letter concluded: 


"This is a matter to which I earnestly hope and 
pray you will devote your attention, in conjunction 
with the following questions: 

"i. Was my daughter's burned car left un- 
protected for hours so that finger-prints could not 
be taken ? 

"2. Is it also a fact that the police made no 
attempt to check footprints on the scene of the 
tragedy until the ground had been trampled over 
by curious sightseers ? 

"3. Why were the skill and experience of 
Scotland Yard ignored by the Northumberland 
police ? 

"We have suffered a great bereavement and 
terrible shock that will remain with us to the end 
of our days. All I can do now is to defend my 
daughter's honour along lines which may protect 
other parents from the painful procedure to which 
Mrs. Foster and myself have been subjected." 

The Home Secretary, Mr. J. R. Clynes, acknowl- 
edged receipt of the letter and said he would reply 
to it in due course. 

It transpired that Miss Foster left estate valued 
at p(^i,400. 

No doubt the Home Secretary made full inquiries 
into the matter, as is usual under such circum- 
stances. No further steps, however, would appear 
to have been taken, and there the mystery remains 

As to what really occurred on that tragic night 
the reader must form his own judgment, basing 


his opinion upon the evidence which has been 
given in the preceding pages. The coroner's jury 
has placed it upon record that Miss Foster was 
deUberately murdered by some person who is still 
at large. As the coroner pointed out, it is difficult 
to conceive what motive the murderer had for such 
a terrible deed, if you except that the culprit, as 
suggested by the coroner, was a homicidal lunatic. 
There was really no motive at all. If murder it 
were, then it was an absolutely purposeless murder, 
and only a homicidal lunatic could have com- 
mitted such a deed. 

The suggestion made by the coroner that Miss 
Foster might have committed the deed herself in 
order to gratify a desire for notoriety — "get into 
the limelight" as it is sometimes called — will 
scarcely bear scrutiny. It is inconceivable that a 
girl, however much she might desire to "make a 
noise", would deliberately condemn herself to such 
a painful ordeal as that which led to her death. 
It might, of course, have been an accident, brought 
about by some mysterious means — she might have 
been taken suddenly ill and not known quite what 
she was about — and the tale she told the result of 
imagination arising from hysteria. But of course 
it is but a vague suggestion. 

It is safe to say that this was one of the most 
mysterious murders ever committed. 



{The Case of Edward Creed, Bayswater, July, 1926.) 

In the year 1926 Edward Creed was manager 
of the old-established cheesemonger's shop belong- 
ing to Messrs. Philip Lowry & Co., and situated 
at Leinster Terrace, off the Bayswater Road, 
Lancaster Gate. He was forty-six years of age, 
was a member of the Special Constabulary and 
had been in his berth many years. He lived with 
his wife and daughters in Denbigh Terrace, Notting 

On the evening of July 28th an assistant, named 
Alfred Leonard, left the shop about ten minutes 
past seven. Prior to this Leonard had, as was the 
custom at the shop, deposited a basin of hot water 
in the cellar for Creed to wash in. He also lit the 
gas in the cellar. Then went upstairs again, said 
"Good night" to Creed and left. When he got 
outside and the door was closed, he heard Creed 
place the safety catch on the door from the inside. 
He saw no suspicious characters hanging about 

By that time Creed had made up his accounts 
and locked the money in the safe, which was in the 



office, leaving only a few coppers in the register 

Three hours later a Mr. Andrews, a chemist 
next door, noticed a strong smell of gas emanating 
from the cheesemonger's shop. He tried the door 
but found it locked. He became alarmed and 
called a constable. Between them they forced an 
entry. They found the shop in great disorder. 
A box-bicycle, used for delivering goods, had 
bloodstains on it. There were splashes of blood on 
the walls, a pool of blood by the door which led 
to the cellar stairs. Half way down the latter they 
discovered the body of Mr. Creed, in a huddled-up 
position, as though it had been thrown down the 
stairs by somebody. A very strong smell of gas 
was proceeding from the cellar. Upon further 
investigation ihey found that three gas jets were 
fully turned on but unlighted. 

Thus was brought to light one of those grim and 
stealthy tragedies which go to swell the already 
long list of London's unsolved mysteries. Scotland 
Yard were promptly notified, and Chief Constable 
Wensley, accompanied by Superintendents NichoUs 
and Ashley, were soon on the spot and bringing 
their combined skill and experience to bear upon 
the problem. 

They discovered two left-hand, bloodstained 
gloves on the floor, one rather larger than the other. 
The safe had been rifled, the door having been 
opened by a key taken from the pocket of the dead 
man. The latter had been killed by repeated and 


heavy blows over the head with a formidable 
weapon. It was thought a "jemmy". The police 
"reconstructed" the crime as follows: Creed had 
gone downstairs to wash when he heard somebody 
knocking on the front door. This would not alarm 
him, as it was quite customary for late callers to be 
served after closing time. He then went upstairs 
and opened the door. Immediately the assailant 
or assailants (it was believed that there were 
two) entered the shop, closing the door behind 
them and at once launched a savage attack 
upon Creed. 

At this stage it will be interesting to point out 
the striking resemblance between this murder and 
that at Deptford, committed by the brothers 
Stratton. In both cases we have a shop with a 
locked door, the knock on the door, the custom 
for serving callers at unseasonable hours, the sudden 
attack, the ruthless murder, the robbery and the 
retreat of the culprits. They are what one may 
term "groove" murders, that is to say, murders 
where the methods adopted are invariably to be 
found moving in the same groove or channel. 
There may be plagiarism about it, as criminals 
undoubtedly copy and endeavour to improve upon 
one another's methods. The police were luckier 
in the Deptford case than they were in that at 

Creed was a well-built and courageous man, 
and there existed evidence that he put up a severe 
struggle. He was, however, evidently overcome by 


superior numbers and from the fact that he was 
taken unawares. Having been beaten to death, or 
at all events into unconsciousness, he was thrown 
downstairs. The safe was then opened and rifled, 
between -£^0 and ;^8o (it was afterwards ascertained) 
being taken. The assassins then went below and 
turned on the gas with the idea, one would suppose, 
of creating a fire somehow, so that all traces of the 
crime might be destroyed. They then quietly left 
the premises, fastening the door behind them. 
Apparently nobody saw them go, and thus they 
were able to make a clean get-away. 

Although the culprits do not appear to have 
been seen near the place after the tragedy had 
been enacted, there were persons who were in a 
position to say that they probably saw them shortly 
prior to the tragedy. These persons were inter- 
viewed by the police. Among them was a police 
pensioner, named William Tucker, who lived near. 
He said he saw two men loitering about the shop 
about seven o'clock. They occasionally looked into 
the shop. He watched them, as their behaviour 
was suspicious and Mr. Tucker was an ex-policeman. 
A policeman was on "point" duty, quite near. 
The men caught sight of him and soon after dis- 
appeared. But they returned shortly after. One 
then stood near the corner of the street, the other 
on the opposite side of the way. The latter carried 
a basket of flowers, which gave him the appearance 
of a flower-seller. That was the last that Mr. Tucker 
saw of the men. 


The police issued the following descriptions of 
two "wanted" men: 

" (i) About 32, height 5 ft. 11 in. to 6 ft. Dressed 
in rough fashion. 

" (2) Height 5 ft. 6 in. to 5 ft. 7 in. One leg 
shorter than other, causing him to walk with a 
pronounced limp. Of rough appearance." 

It must be admitted that these descriptions seem 
rather vague, but they were the best the police 
could issue with the material at their disposal. 

As usual under such circumstances statements 
were taken from various people. For instance, two 
women said they saw two rough men hanging about 
the shop a few nights before the murder, but they 
were unable to describe them very well. In fact 
no two descriptions tallied, except that one was 
taller than the other, and that one limped. 

Another story, which came from a young woman, 
seemed to have something in it. She said she saw 
two men standing on the flat roof of the shop 
shortly before the murder. She had communicated 
this information about the time the murder was 
discovered and had then disappeared and could 
not be found. The police communicated with 
various coast towns — such, for instance, as East- 
bourne, Worthing and other places around that 
part of the coast — asking the local police to keep 
a watch for the arrival of any suspicious-looking 


There were finger smudges and faint finger- 
prints found in the shop, and these were photo- 
graphed, but they proved to be of Uttle 

News reached Scotland Yard from Birmingham 
to the effect that two men had visited the pubHc 
baths and changed their clothes, leaving their old 
ones behind. The clothes they left behind consisted 
of a grey swallow-tailed coat, grey trousers with 
black stripe, waistcoat and bluejacket. There were 
stains on the clothes, probably of paint. The stains, 
however, might be bloodstains, and they were to 
be subjected to tests. Pieces were taken out for 
this purpose. The men left the baths dressed as 
follows: I. New blue tweed suit, black boots, 
much worn, soft collar and tie, hard bowler hat. 
2. New light grey suit, with stripes in the cloth, 
black boots, much worn, dark trilby hat, collar 
and tie. 

Upon the strength of this and other information, 
the police issued the following amended and 
ampUfied descriptions of the two "wanted" men: 

** (i). Aged 27 or 28, height 5ft. Sin. or 5ft. 
9 in., thinly built, dark features, short-clipped black 
moustache, sunken eyes, short-cropped hair at 
back, dark and well brushed back: walks with a 
jerk in his right leg. 

'' (2). Aged between 45 and 50, height between 
5 ft. 5 in. and 5 ft. 6 in., medium build, sallow 
complexion, sandy moustache, round shouldered." 


Scotland Yard were inundated with reports about 
the two "wanted" men having been seen, coming 
from all parts of the country. The task of attending 
to all these was a heavy one, and unfortunately led 
to no practical result. The descriptions were 
rather vague, and the only resemblance between 
the men who were seen and those who were 
"wanted" was apparently the limp. As a matter 
of fact it was rather a "jerk" than a limp. 

The inquest was opened at Paddington on 
August 13th, by Mr. H. R. Oswald. It was a short 
hearing, only evidence of identification being taken. 
The coroner apologized to the jury for having to 
adjourn so soon, but he did so at the request of the 
police. He also mentioned that he had received 
some anonymous letters about the case. He 
explained that he did not want to give the case 
away to any possible criminal by any revelation 
in his court. He could have called Dr. Bronte and 
other important witnesses, but it would be inex- 
pedient to do so on that day. 

An anonymous letter had also been received by 
the police, to which they evidently attached con- 
siderable importance. They appealed to the writer 
of it to come forward, but there was no response. 
The coroner also appealed. He said: "I should 
like to point out to the individual concerned, who- 
ever it may be, that he or she owes a public duty 
to the country and to justice in this case — a very 
brutal and cowardly murder — to come forward and 
state definitely what he or she knows. It is very 


misleading to the police to keep behind the scenes. 
If the person would come forward and say what 
his information is the police can investigate it, and 
see if there is any foundation for the statement 
made, otherwise it is wasting the time of the police, 
throwing them on the wrong scent, and helping a 
criminal to escape. 

"I appeal to that individual to take his or her 
courage in both hands and say definitely what the 
information is. If fear is the reason for the person 
keeping in the background I will tell him or her 
that he or she need have no fear at all as to the 

"The person will be afforded ample protection, 
and even if personal violence is feared through 
giving evidence, in this case the individual con- 
cerned ought to have a certain amount of personal 
courage in the interests of the public, the State, 
and justice, and exercise that personal courage by 
coming forward and defying any person who has 
threatened him or her." 

The police themselves also issued the following 
official intimation to the individual in question: 

"No response has been received by the police 
to the appeal made through the Press for the 
anonymous writer who sent two letters to 
Chief Constable Wensley to get into touch 
with him. 

"These letters were postmarked August 4th and 
August gth respectively, the first being addressed 
to Insp. Wensley and marked 'Important, Urgent', 


and the second addressed to Chief Con. Wensley 
and marked 'Personal'. 

*'It is again requested that the writer of them 
communicate with the Chief Constable, making an 
appointment. Should the writer fail to come for- 
ward by midday on Saturday, August 14th, the 
police authorities will reluctantly be compelled to 
publish a specimen of the handwriting." 

The letters were evidently written in a disguised 
handwriting. The threat to publish a specimen 
of the handwriting was evidently made with a view 
to frightening the author into coming forward. If 
so, it failed, as nobody responded. Nor, so far as 
can be ascertained, was a specimen of the hand- 
writing published. Probably there had been no real 
intention of doing so. 

However, on August 23rd, another anonymous 
letter was received by the police, obviously written 
by the same person and again in disguised hand- 
writing. From the style and diction and general 
phraseology of the documents it seemed probable 
that the writer was a person of some education, 
who still obstinately refused to come forward. The 
police had interviewed over 100 persons on the 
case, although not the individual they particularly 
wanted to interview. 

The police believed that the murderer or 
murderers, were acquainted with Creed. All the 
previous assistants were found and questioned, 
their replies being satisfactory, and proving that 
they were in no way connected with or knew 


anything about the tragedy. There were two 
ticket-of-leave men who had not "reported", but 
these also proved to be outside the case. 

The inquest was resumed on September ist, at 
which the coroner made the following additional 
statement : 

"Unfortunately no person has been arrested who 
could be said to be suspected of this foul act, and 
so far as I can see there is no prospect that an arrest 
is near. It will be wasting your time and the time 
of the witnesses to keep on adjourning the case. A 
verdict that the murder was committed by some 
person unknown will not prevent the police 
prosecuting any person who may be arrested later. 
If a person is discovered twenty-five years hence to 
have committed the murder he may yet be hanged, 
and the person in this case, whoever he is, may lay 
that in his conscience." 

Mere formal evidence was then taken, and the 
only possible verdict returned, namely, that of 
murder against "some person or persons un- 

In an article which the coroner, Mr. Oswald, 
subsequently wrote for an evening paper, he 
referred to the murder as a "perfect crime". 
Presumably a perfect crime is one where the 
perpetrator is never discovered. If that is so, there 
must have been many perfect crimes committed 
from time to time. At one time there was an 
attempt to make this murder out as one of revenge, 
but clearly it was just a well-planned murder for 


robbery. That the culprit or culprits had an 
intimate knowledge of the habits and movements 
of Creed is obvious, but most skilful crooks make 
themselves well acquainted with the ground on 
which they are going to "work" before attempting 
a coup. The men who murdered Creed had 
probably well studied the place and the move- 
ments of Creed very carefully before they acted, 
and then they did so with great speed and precision. 
That they were not taken is proof of the skill with 
which they laid their plans and the adroitness with 
which they executed them. Of course they may 
yet be taken, but the probability is that they will 



[The Case of Hilary Rougier, Woking, August, 1926.) 


In the year 1926 Mr. Hilary Rougier, a retired 
farmer, who had formerly lived in Guernsey, was 
staying as a ''paying guest" at a house called 
"Nuthurst", situated at Lower Knaphill, about 
two miles from Woking. The house had been 
rented furnished by a Mr. and Mrs. Lerwill, who 
were friends of Rougier's, with whom they had 
been acquainted some years. Mr. Rougier suffered 
from extreme asthma. He was very old. 

On July 23rd, Dr. Brewer, a local practitioner, 
was summoned by telephone to see him. He was 
received by Mrs. Lerwill, who asked him to wait 
while she fetched Rougier from the garden, where 
the old man used to spend a good deal of his time 
pottering about. Dr. Brewer saw him, and he 
appeared to him to be a healthy man for his age. 
He found slight signs, only slight signs, of bronchial 
trouble. Dr. Brewer noticed that the old man 
appeared, as he described it, "subdued". He 



never spoke for himself, Mrs. Lerwill speaking 
for him and seeming to monopoHse the conversa- 

On August 14th Dr. Brewer received another 
and a very urgent summons to Nuthurst to see 
Rougier. This message was also a telephonic one. 
As before, he first saw Mrs. Lerwill. On going 
into Mr. Rougier's room he found him in an 
unconscious condition. In fact he was actually 
dying and was beyond all aid. He was livid, 
quietly and automatically breathing. His pulse 
was feeble, and the old fellow was all but dead. 
There were no signs of external injuries. He 
merely examined him casually, as he was absolutely 
beyond aid. Dr. Brewer regarded it as a case of 
severe cerebral haemorrhage, having occurred dur- 
ing the night. A little later he received a message 
at his house over the telephone to the effect that 
the patient had passed away. 

Dr. Brewer duly issued a certificate on August 
1 6th, giving the cause of death as senile decay, 
cerebral haemorrhage and coma. He had no 
suspicion that there was anything wrong. 

On each occasion that Dr. Brewer was at Nut- 
hurst he never once saw Mr. Rougier alone. Mrs. 
Lerwill was always with him and did all the talking. 
It seemed to Dr. Brewer that the old fellow was not 
allowed to speak for himself. He said that before 
Rougier could speak Mrs. Lerwill "butted in" 
and spoke for him. 

Mr. Rougier was duly buried in St. John's 


Churchyard, Woking. In spite of the fact that he 
was always regarded as a wealthy man, it was 
found that all he possessed at the time of his death 
was £^0. This surprised several people who had 
good reasons for believing that they knew what 
his financial position was. 

Well, Mr. Rougier had died and Mr. Rougier 
was buried and his body had lain in the ground 
for about a year and a half when some startling 
events occurred. Early in 1928 rumours arose 
that all was not as it should be in connection with 
the death of Mr. Rougier. An application was 
made to the Home Office for permission to exhume 
his body. This was granted and on March i6th 
the exhumation took place. It was attended by 
the well-known pathologist. Sir Bernard Spilsbury, 
who was accompanied by Superintendent Boshier, 
of the local police. Sir Bernard found the face of 
the corpse covered with a white handkerchief, 
which was marked in the corner with the word 
*'Lerwiir'. He found no external mark of injury. 
There was no haemorrhage on the surface or the 
substance of the brain. He found no sign of disease 
in him. In the stomach were no signs of disease 
or poisoning. He came to the conclusion that 
death was not due to cerebral haemorrhage, nor 
was there any sign of disease of the brain to account 
for death. In short there was no ascertainable 
cause of death. Not even that of senile decay. 
There was nothing to account for either death or 
the period of unconsciousness which preceded it. 


The conclusion thus arrived at was that Mr. 
Rougier did not die from natural causes. 

The inquest was opened on Thursday, May 1 7th, 
1928, by Mr. G. Wells Taylor, at Woking, and was 
continued for many days. Mr. W. B. Fr amp ton 
was present to represent Mr. Lerwill, Mr. J. G 
Symes appearing for Mrs. Lerwill. Mr. W. Crosse 
represented Mrs. Carey Smith, sister of the deceased 
Mr. Rougier. There was a large array of bottles 
and tins in the court. 

The first witness called was Dr. Roche Lynch, the 
well-known expert, who had made an analysis of 
portions of Rougier's body, and found alkaloid mor- 
phine in the organs. He suggested that Rougier must 
have taken a considerable quantity of morphine 
before his death. The amount present was small, 
but the fact that any was found in the viscera as 
long as eighteen months after burial indicated that 
he must have taken a considerable quantity shortly 
before death. In fact, the finding of morphine at 
all after so long a period was surprising, as it had 
a tendency to disappear as putrefaction proceeds. 

It must have been a fatal dose. The symptoms 
of a large dose were : First a period of excitement. 
Then the victim becomes sleepy, falls off to sleep, 
sleep deepens to coma, from which it is impossible 
to arouse him. He may also be blue in the face, 
and with a slow pulse. 


Dr. Lynch said that he had been handed iig 

articles which had been taken from the house, a 

considerable number of which contained food and 

medical preparations. One bottle was labelled 

''Linctus — one tablespoonful to be taken if the 

cough is troublesome." It contained .15 per cent 

of morphine. The whole bottle would contain 

getting on for a fatal dose. There were also tubes 

of morphine not yet opened. A bottle labelled 

"Laudanum" contained tincture of opium, which 

was I per cent morphine. A considerable quantity 

had been taken from the bottle and would have 

produced the results found by the analyst. 

Here the foreman of the jury put the following 
question to the witness: "You have told us that 
death was due to a fatal dose of morphine. That 
is the impression the jury have got." 
" I cannot say that," replied Dr. Lynch. 
The inquest was then adjourned till the following 
day, and was thence continued daily. 

Miss Mary Hope, of Queen's Gate, London, the 
owner of Nuthurst, gave details of the letting of 
that house. She described how the house came to 
be let to the Lerwills, who had two small children. 
She said that she had shut one or two of the cup- 
boards before leaving the house. One of the 
cupboards contained chiefly clothing and books. 
Another had many bottles in it, one or two had 
belonged to her father, who was a doctor. The 
bottles had been there many years. Altogether 
there were about 120 bottles. Some of them 


contained poison. One was a bottle of morphine. 
She was shown a bottle taken possession of by the 
police, and upon examining it Miss Hope said that 
it had contained more when she last saw it. Also 
she said that she did not remember the label 
"poison" on it, nor was there a cork floating about 
inside as there was now. 

Miss Hope returned to Nuthurst about October, 
1926. The Lerwills had then gone, leaving the 
key with an agent or a neighbour. In the mean- 
time she had heard of the death which had taken 
place in the house. She went to have a look at the 
rooms. She was not satisfied with one of them. 
It smelt musty, an odour that was not at all pleas- 
ant. Also the bedstead was discoloured, the polish 
had been rubbed oflFthe head, as though it had been 

A sister of Miss Hope also explained that the 
rent was to be paid by instalments, but only a third 
that was due had been received and that the 
matter was in the hands of a lawyer. 

Evidence was then given by a Miss Dayborn, a 
domestic help, who said that she took shaving 
water up to Mr. Rougier the day he died. She 
found him breathing heavily. She shook him but 
he did not speak. Becoming alarmed, she fetched 
the nurse and Mrs. Lerwill. The doctor was sent 
for, who said that Mr. Rougier could not live long. 
In fact he died at four o'clock that afternoon. 

Miss Dayborn was followed by the trained 
children's nurse. Miss Aldridge, who was employed 


by the Lei-wills. She said that she had never seen 
Mr. Rougier write anything. She had, however, 
seen him sign documents, and had witnessed his 
signature. Mr. Lerwill did not sleep at home on 
the day that Mr. Rougier died, nor the day before. 
She did not remember seeing him during the day. 
She said that Mr. Rougier seemed to be very fond 
of Mr. and Mrs. Lerwill. 

Then came Mr. R. Hilliard, of Crosby House, 
Chigwell, who married Rougier 's niece and had 
heard of the death of Rougier. He at once tele- 
phoned to Nuthurst. Mrs. Lerwill replied. She said 
that she was alone in the house with her children 
and asked that the funeral might take place as 
soon as possible, on account of the children. The 
funeral was accordingly arranged. Mr. Hilliard 
was present. After the return to the house he made 
a search for Mr. Rougier's belongings, being 
helped to do so by Mr. and Mrs. Lerwill. He was 
surprised that he could not find the deceased 
man's cheque book. In the course of conversation 
before the funeral, he explained, Mrs. Lerwill had 
suggested cremation. 

"Have you since attached any importance to 
that suggestion?" asked the Foreman of the Jury. 

"Yes, I have," emphatically replied the witness. 

The witness stand was then taken by Mr. A. W. 
Crosse, of Bedford Square, who was acting for 
Mrs. Carey Smith, the sister of Mr. Rougier. He 
described how he went to Nuthurst to make 
inquiries about Mr. Rougier's death. He saw Mrs. 


Lerwill, who merely referred him to her soHcitor 
at Brighton. She afforded him no other assistance 
or furnished him with any information. He said 
he thought it strange that Mr. Rougier should 
leave so little, when he should have been worth 
between ^^5,000 and ^(^GjOOO. Rougier was paying 
the Lerwills so much for living at Nuthurst. 

Mr. Crosse then saw Mrs. Lerwill's solicitor, but 
he could get no satisfaction out of him. He eventu- 
ally found Rougier's pass-book, which contained 
many cheques made payable to the Lerwills. He 
thought it very extraordinary. He eventually 
succeeded in getting possession of some documents 
from a bank at Horsham, where Mrs. Lerwill had 
an account. These included some cheques. There 
were twelve of them, several of them payable to 
Lerwill, the various sums including those of ^{^130, 
;(^53j £^^) £% and ^^^40. There was also a " bearer" 
cheque for the large sum of ^^1,850. The earliest 
cheque was drawn in 1924 and the latest in 1926. 

Mrs. Smith, of Crosby House, Essex, the sister 
of the dead man, then went into the box. 

Mrs. Smith explained that her brother was left 
sufficient money by his father to enable him to 
live comfortably. She last saw him alive in the 
spring of 1925. He consulted her about selling his 
house at Guernsey, which was eventually sold for 
;{^3,o8o. Mrs. Lerwill was present at this inter- 
view. Mrs. Lerwill said that she would like a 
private interview with Rougier, which was accorded 
her and which lasted for five minutes. As a rule, 


she said, her brother was most careful about 
money matters. A cheque was produced, made 
out to E. C. Smith, being the witness herself, dated 
December loth, 1924, about which she was asked. 
She explained that when she paid it into the bank 
the latter would not cash it, as they were not 
satisfied witli the signature. She also said that she 
had to press him for this cheque. 

A number of cheques were then handed to the 
witness, and she closely examined them. She 
said that some were not in her brother's hand- 
writing, some of the signatures were also doubtful. 
The cheque for ^1,850 she said was not in her 
brother's handwriting. She doubted whether he 
would have signed a cheque that was not in his 
own handwriting. She also said that the house 
at Guernsey was to have been hers, and that he 
always consulted her as to change of tenancy. 
After her brother's death she made inquiries at his 
bank in Guernsey and was surprised to find that 
everything had been withdrawn. She then thought 
that it had been deposited in another bank, but 
was astonished to find that there was nothing left. 

Mr. H. T. Knott, the manager of Barclay's Bank, 
Horsham, then gave evidence. He said that Mrs. 
Lerwill opened her account on December loth, 
1925, closing it July, 1927. Mr. Lerwill had no 
account there. He said that the cheque for ^1,850, 
made out to bearer, was, he believed, paid in by 
Mrs. Lerwill. The witness also proved the paying 
in of other cheques of varying amounts. 


Then came Mr. Lerwill. Before he was asked 
any questions the coroner thus addressed him: 
"You know the words of the oath, and, of course, 
appreciate that these words are not idle words. 
You also know, I have no doubt, that it is a principle 
of British justice that no one is obliged to say any- 
thing that will incriminate himself". 

The witness nodded and his examination was 
proceeded with. 

He described himself as of "no occupation", 
and gave his address as West End Park, Chesham. 
He then went on to explain that when he and his 
wife were living at Bexhill, Mr. Rougier asked if 
he could live with them. They consented, and he 
lived with them at various places, including 
Hassocks, near Brighton, Broadbridge Heath and 
Lower Knaphill. At Broadbridge his, Rougier 's, 
health began to fail, his breathing being very 
difficult. He said himself he thought it was due 
to his advanced age. During the last month of his 
life, the witness said, the old man's breathing 
became very bad, so bad, indeed, that he was 
hardly able to speak. 

Lerwill said that he was in London a few days 
before Rougier died. One day his wife sent to him 
that Rougier was worse. He at once went to 
Woking, and returned to town again in the after- 
noon. He was then questioned about the cheques, 
and said that he was perfectly certain that every 
cheque produced in court had been signed by 
Rougier. He explained that the money had been 


given to him from time to time by Rougier in order 
to help him, and that Rougier had expressed 
himself as glad to be able to do so. He admitted 
that although he had no occupation he had been 
trs'ing to get something to do. The coroner then 
asked him who, under the circumstances, was going 
to pay the four- and-a-half guineas rent of the house 
they had taken, and the witness replied that he 
would himself have done so had not a catering 
business he had taken at Woking failed. 

In answer to a question as to why a doctor had 
not been called before, the witness explained that 
as the old man had been getting worse during the 
last week or two a doctor could only go on giving 
him medicine. When he returned to Nuthurst, he 
added, he did, in fact, suggest that a doctor should 
be called that day. Asked as to the footing on 
wliich Rougier was in the house, the witness replied 
that of a paying guest. (This was true enough. 
He was certainly a paying guest.) No arrange- 
ments, however, the witness admitted, had been 
made as to maintenance. No payments were made 
during the first month or two. Rougier had helped 
him in various business arrangements. Before 
he came to live with them he had helped with 
a guarantee. Rougier had paid nothing at 
Horsham and Nuthurst, although the witness 
admitted that he had received "certain amounts" 
from him. 

Lerwill could not remember when the last 
payment was made. 


"I wonder if I can remind you," commented 
the coroner. 

He then handed the witness some cheques, 
caUing his special attention to the one for £So, 

" I do not remember receiving that," repHed the 
witness, "though probably I did." 

"The payments were very frequent," remarked 
the coroner. 

"That is money he had been giving me for my 
different debts and one thing and another," replied 

The witness could not point to any cheque which 
could be said to have been in payment of mainten- 
ance, nor did he know why there was no record of 
any cheque being paid after May, 1926. All 
cheques, he explained, were "gifts". 

A cheque for £g^o, payable to a solicitor, was 
put to him, and he said that he was in debt at the 
time and this cheque was in settlement. He was 
then shown the cheque for ^1,850. 

"I filled that cheque for Mr. Rougier," he said. 
" It was partly to pay off a guarantee for me to the 
Westminster Bank at Woking for £j^o. He, Mr. 
Rougier, as guarantor, was called upon to pay 
that for me." 

The examination of Mr. Lerwill was adjourned 
at this stage. In the meantime Dr. Brewer was 
recalled, and said he was quite certain that the 
news of the death of Rougier was sent to him by 
telephone at 12 o'clock in the day, when he re- 
turned for lunch. Witnesses had said that Rougier 


had died at four in the afternoon. The doctor 
also said that "most certainly" Rougier's condition 
was consistent with morphine poisoning. 

Miss Hope was also recalled, and being shown 
a bottle of morphine tablets, said she did not 
recognise them as having been in the cupboard. 

When the examination of Mr. Lerwill was 
resumed, he was asked further about certain 
cheques. Why did he make them out ? 

"Mr. Rougier would say," replied Lerwill, 
"'Just write it out and I will sign it'." 

"What was the inducement offered ?" asked the 

"No inducement whatever," replied Lerwill. 
"I said I had certain debts, and he said he would 
be glad to help me." 

" Were any of the cheques obtained by means 
of any threat?" asked the coroner. 

"None whatever," replied Lerwill. 

"Would you give the same answer regarding 
this cheque for £1,850 ?" asked the coroner. 

"Absolutely," replied Lerwill. 

The witness went on to explain that he had not 
seen Rougier's pass-book until he came into court. 
He thought he was worth more than he really was. 
He had himself received from him between ^^5,000 
and /^6,ooo. 

"In March there was only :(^i50 left," said the 
coroner. " In May you had a cheque for £80. How 
was Mr. Rougier going to maintain himself on 
what was left?" 


"I have not the faintest idea," replied the 
witness. "I should have looked after him, or my 
people would." 

"Why should your people be called upon to 
maintain Mr. Rougier," asked the coroner, "from 
whom you have had ;;(^55000 or /^6,ooo ?" 

"My people would have looked after him if I 
had asked them," he replied. 

The coroner then remarked that morphine had 
been found in Rougier's body and asked him if he 
knew anything about it. 

Nothing whatever," he replied. 
Do you suggest Rougier got it himself?" asked 
the coroner. 

"He might have done," replied Lerwill. 

"Do you consider he took it himself?" asked 
the coroner, to which the witness replied, "I 
cannot say." 

The witness was then asked to explain the 
presence in the house of a bottle of laudanum, and 
he said that Rougier asked him to get some for his 
dog's paws, which were afflicted with eczema. 
He denied all knowledge of the phial of morphine 
or bottle of laudanum found in the cupboard, as 
he had never "explored" the cupboard. 

The witness was then cross-examined by Mr. 
Crosse, representing Mrs. Smith. 

"Have you any explanation as to why he should 
give you ^^6,000 and leave himself with only ^^50 ?" 
was his first question. 

"No," replied Lerwill. "I think he wanted to 


help me and he did it. He said he had never 
been so happy in his Hfe as when he was Hving 
\vdth me." 

"Don't you think it was an extraordinary thing," 
continued Mr. Crosse, "that he died just when he 
had got rid of all his money ?" 

" I don't think it extraordinary," replied Lerwill. 

That concluded the examination and cross- 
examination of Lerwill. 

The jury then expressed their dissatisfaction at 
the witness not being able to be more definite 
about the purchase of laudanum for Rougier's dog. 
They could not make out, they said, why, as 
Rougier was known to be fond of walking, he had 
not gone to the chemist's himself. 

Mrs. Lerwill then went into the box. 

She explained that Mr. Rougier took dislikes to 
people and asked not to be left alone with Dr. 
Brewer. Also Rougier would not answer questions 
put to him by the doctor. 

Questioned on the subject of finance, she said 
that she had no money of her own, it all belonged 
to her husband. The banking account was 
opened in her name as her husband was in diffi- 
culties at the time. In reply to a question, she 
denied ever having administered any noxious drug 
to Rougier. 

Mr. A. A. H. Hardwicke, solicitor, of Brighton, 
then gave evidence. He said that he acted for 
Mr. and Mrs. Lerwill in the summer of 1925, and 
met Rougier on several occasions. Rougier had 


told him that he had known Lerwill since he was a 
boy and that he was very fond of him. In fact 
there was, he said, nobody he cared about but the 
Lerwills. He further said he was prepared to 
advance sums of money to help Lerwill. Rougier 
said he had once lived with his sister, but was so 
uncomfortable with her that he left and went to 
live with the Lerwills. 

A police sergeant then entered the witness-box 
and said: 

"After the statement by Mr. Lerwill to-day I 
caused inquiries to be made at Horsham with 
reference to the bottle of laudanum, and the 
reply I received was: 'Search has been made in 
the poison registers of all chemists in Horsham. 
No record of sale of poison to W. F. Lerwill since 
1924. All sold have been contained in prescrip- 

The final hearing of the inquest was held on 
Wednesday, May 30th. The coroner stated that 
he had received a number of anonymous letters 
bearing on the case, but said that no notice should 
be taken of them. 

Mrs. Lerwill was recalled, and questioned about 
certain letters in her handwriting. An explanation 
of the matters referred to in these, which were 
not all connected with the death of Rougier, was 
supplied by Mr. Preston, a solicitor, of Bishopsgate. 
It transpired during this explanation that it was 
contemplated bringing an action against Lerwill 
for the return of the money obtained from Rougier 


but whether such an action was ever launched 
does not appear to be obvious. Mrs. Smith's 
solicitor was supposed to have had the matter in 

That concluded the taking of evidence. 

A proclamation was then made for any other 
witnesses to come forward, it being read by the 
coroner's officer from both doors of the court. 

The coroner then made a brief summing-up. 
He pointed out to the jury that it would be wrong 
for them to name any person or persons in a 
finding involving a criminal offence, unless they 
were satisfied without a reasonable doubt that 
there was a prima facie case on the evidence against 
the person named. 

At the request of the jury, the coroner read 
over the evidence of Mrs. Lerwill. They then 
retired and shortly afi;er returned with the verdict 
that Mr. Rougier died from morphine poisoning 
not self-administered. 

Which of course meant that Mr. Rougier had 
been murdered by somebody not named. 

After the verdict was returned and as Lerwill 
was leaving the court, a police constable said to 
him "Superintendent Boshier wants to speak to 
you". Lerwill then strolled up to the Superin- 
tendent and asked him, "Do you want to see me ?" 
"No," replied Boshier, and that was all that trans- 
pired. Mrs. Lerwill then asked a constable if the 
Superintendent wanted to see her, and the constable 
replied, "No, it is all right". "What did he call 


me back for?" asked Mrs. Lerwill. There the 
pecuHar incident ended, Mr. and Mrs. Lerwill 
leaving the building by separate exits. 

Thus the matter ended and no light has since 
been thrown on the mystery of Hilary Rougier's 
death. In the following September it cropped up 
again. A "development" was supposed to have 
occurred. Superintendent Boshier, who was then 
on holiday, was recalled by the Home Office and 
had a conference with the C.I.D. The incident 
was shrouded in mystery, and no details were 
vouchsafed for publication. Nothing transpired, 
and there has been silence ever since. It was just 
one of those little vague sequels which often attend 
the aftermath of unsolved murder mysteries, like 
the intermittent flickerings of a conflagration prior 
to its total extinction. 

As to who achieved the "removal" of old man 
Rougier with the depleted exchequer, who shall 
or can say ? The whole mind of the police on the 
subject would no doubt be very interesting and 
enlightening, but of all classes of the community 
the police are least able to perform that mental 
revelation. It is one of those cases where the reader 
must form his own judgment, basing his opinion 
on the facts which have been laid before him. 



{The Case of Thomas Henry Jackson^ February^ 1929.) 


In the early part of the year 1929 there lived at 
a bungalow at The Mumbles, Swansea, a Mr. and 
Mrs. Jackson. They had an adopted child, a little 
girl named Betty. On February 4th, Mrs. Jackson, 
accompanied by a neighbour named Mrs. Dimick, 
went to a cinema. Mr. Jackson went to bed. There 
was a dog in the house. When the two women 
returned from the picture theatre it was about ten 
o'clock. They separated, making their way to 
their respective homes. Mr: Dimick, however, ^/ 
had not had time to get indoors when she was 
alarmed by hearing a loud screaming coming from 
the direction of the Jackson bungalow. So she at 
once made her way there. On going to the back 
of the Jackson bungalow she found Mrs. Jackson 
upon the ground and being lifted up by her 
husband. This was near the back door of the 
bungalow. Mrs. Jackson was bleeding from the 
head and was unconscious. She was carried 
indoors to the scullery. 



A little later another neighbour, a Mrs. Gammon, 
came in and offered to help. While in bed Jackson 
had been suddenly roused by hearing screaming 
at the back of the bungalow. He had immediately 
got up and gone out, accompanied by his dog, 
and found his wife lying on the ground. She had 
evidently been savagely attacked and beaten about 
the head with some blunt instrument. No weapon 
was found near the place of attack. 

Jackson and Mrs. Dimick did their best to 
revive Mrs. Jackson, but she remained unconscious. 
They bathed her face and attended to her generally. 
Later — about midnight — a doctor was called, and 
Mrs. Jackson was conveyed to hospital in a taxi 
cab. Eventually the police were notified of the case 
by telephone by the night porter of the hospital. 

Mrs. Jackson was wearing an overcoat, on the 
collar of which there was blood. Most of the 
blood was on the lining, on the right side. The 
coat was over her head, as though she had raised 
it to protect herself against the blows, or her 
assailant had covered her head with it in order to 
smother her cries. She was lying about eight feet 
from the back door, where she had collapsed. A 
few days later Mrs. Jackson died without having 
once regained consciousness and without uttering a 
word. Thus the mystery was sealed. 

Mrs. Jackson was regarded by most people who 
knew her, or thought they knew her, in the vicinity 


where she lived, as a woman of considerable mystery. 
She Uved well, even luxuriously, and always had 
plenty of money. She did not seem to have any 
particular occupation, although she had created 
the impression that she was an authoress. She 
received many letters, some of which were supposed 
to come from her agent, who had her business 
affairs in hand. As a matter of fact, she was not 
an authoress, and was incapable of writing a line 
worthy of being published. She had an occupation 
which was very far removed from that of an 
authoress, an occupation which was at once 
degraded and criminal. We shall next proceed to 
turn a few pages of her grim history and describe 
her career which culminated in her savage murder. 
Early in the year 191 9 she was lunching at the 
Comer House in the Strand when she got into 
conversation with a man who was seated near 
her. After a little while she asked him his name 
and he said it was Ingram. He also said that he 
had been badly wounded in the war. They 
chummed up together and afterwards went to the 
pictures. Eventually the lady, who lived in the 
country, had to return, and the two went to 
Waterloo Station. They arranged to meet again 
in a day or two. They met, had dinner together 
and again went to the theatre. We may as well 
reveal the fact that Ingram was really Jackson, 
who, with a few pals, was having a few days' 
recreation in London. The lady said she was 
Madame B , that she was an authoress and 


that she had to see her agent occasionally to see 
what commissions, if any, he had for her. 

Jackson took her to be a woman of wealth who 
perhaps was dabbling in authorship as a hobby. 
She was always elegantly dressed and had a 
charming way with her. She was liberal with her 
money, even to the degree of extravagance, and 
would sometimes give as much as a pound note 
as a tip for quite a trifling service. 

After a few weeks' acquaintance the lady invited 
Jackson (as we will now call him) to her house at 
Southampton Terrace, Farnborough. It was a fine 
house, well furnished, and she appeared to be 
living there alone. A next-door neighbour did 
cooking for her and a girl came in to do the cleaning. 
Jackson stayed there for some weeks, and became 
very fond of his friend. So that when one day 

Madame B , presumably she had represented 

herself as a widow, asked him if he would like to 
marry her, he was not disinclined to fall in with 
her suggestion. In addition to the fact that he 
had become very fond of her, there was the tempting 
prospect of becoming the husband of a wealthy 
woman, more particularly as he himself was not 
by any means in affluent circumstances. 

So a marriage was accordingly arranged. But 
before the ceremony could be performed the lady 
wanted one little detail attended to. She had seen 
Jackson's discharge papers and by that means had 
learned his true name. She objected that Jackson 
was much too prosaic a name for her to assume, 


SO she insisted that he should adhere to the name of 
Ingram, and that, in addition, he should promote 
himself to the rank of Captain. He agreed, and 
so shortly after he was married to the lady in the 
name of Captain Ingram. The marriage took place 
at a register office, although the name of the 
regiment he was supposed to be in was not given. 

They spent their honeymoon by travelling about 
to different places, and finally settled at a place 
called Warwick Farm, Ash Vale, Surrey, which 
Jackson described as "a compact little place of 
about seven- and-a-half acres". Here his wife 
became very extravagant in the manner in which 
she embellished the property, expending large 
sums of money in stocking the place with all kinds 
of ornamental and fruit trees, poultry, pigs, etc. 
She must have spent thousands of pounds on the 
place, and paid any price that was asked her for 
anything she wanted. She did not haggle but paid 
right away. She also dealt liberally with her 
servants, giving them freely all sorts of luxuries, 
such, for instance, as port, cake, biscuits, lavish 
dinners, and so on. And in return they thoroughly 
neglected their duties, so it was said. 

For about three years they remained at Ash 
Vale, each year going for a wonderful summer 

In 1922 Jackson had a desire to see his people 
at Swansea, but could not very well do so in his 
assumed name. This difficulty, however, was sur- 
mounted by the two getting married again at a 


Cardiff register office in the name of Jackson. 
He then introduced his wife to his people and got 
a job as an exhibition bilHards player. His father 
kept the Ship Inn, and the two stayed there for 
a fortnight. Mrs. Jackson became very fond of 
Swansea and it was decided to settle there. It was 
while they were at Ash Vale that, as they were 
not likely to have any children of their own, they 
adopted the little girl, Betty. The adoption was 
carried out in due legal form. Mrs. Jackson wanted 
it to be believed that the child was, in fact, her own, 
and means were taken to create that impression. 
Eventually Mrs. Jackson took the bungalow at The 
Mumbles, where she lived with her husband until 
the tragedy which put an end to her career. 

We must now go back again chronologically and 
relate some incidents which occurred prior to those 
related above. 

During the war Mrs. Jackson, posing as a lady 
of distinction and means, mixed freely with young 
military officers. It may be said at once that she 
was, in fact, of very humble origin, being the 
daughter of an agricultural labourer, who subse- 
quently became a gardener. She was not in any 
way entitled to any of the exalted positions which 
she assumed. At one time she claimed to be the 
daughter of the Duke of Abercorn. She came to 

make use of the name B as she had been living 

with a man of that name. She had freely black- 
mailed the officers with whom she had become 
acquainted, or those of them she managed to get 


into her clutches, at which, by the way, she was 
eminently successful. This humble, though relent- 
less, Delilah made victims wherever she went, and 
pitiful tragedy ever followed in her wake. But the 
most poignant of all was that connected with a 
criminal charge, which doubdess had a direct 
connection with her eventual untimely though not 
unwelcome passing hence. 

One day, while this human privateer was 
*' cruising" along Charing Cross Road, her baleful 
eyes fell upon a man who held an official position 
in connection with a trade union. In the racy 
phraseology of the day, he "fell for her". As is 
usual with such decoys, the woman had an unfailing 
instinct for "spotting" precisely the man who would 
become an easy and a complete victim. The man 
in question was such an individual. The meeting 
occurred somewhere in the year 1914. The woman 

was then calling herself Mollie B . As usual, she 

was the first to speak. Unfortunately for himself, the 
man responded. The two adjourned to a tea shop, 
where the lady promptly and sincerely "told the 
tale". He listened sympathetically to the menda- 
cious narrative poured into his ears by the adven- 
turess, and her tale was a tale of woe. She was, 
she said, starving. Her husband, she declared, was 
a clerk who could get no work, who was so poor 
in fact that he was unable to obtain enough food 
to keep body and soul together. It looked as 
though the woman must have had some intuitive 
knowledge of the man's career, for he was, in fact, 


himself a working man, who, by means of appU- 
cation and unremitting industry, had raised himself 
to a position of trust and prominence with the union 
in question. How natural for such a man to 
sympathise with a woman in such a presumed 
position! And sympathise he did. 

The acquaintance grew, as the woman intended 
it should, until it became of an intimate character. 
It was not long before Delilah had extracted or 
extorted from her victim full information as to his 
position. She learned that he was secretary and 
treasurer of the union and that he had control of 
large sums of money. This was just the kind of 
"bird" she most desired to snare, and one, more- 
over, ready and easy for the plucking. She was 
not long in beginning this process of acquirement. 
Incidentally she also learned — and this was valuable 
information for her — ^that the man was a married 
man with children and that he had a comfortable 
though not ostentatious home in the southern 
suburbs of London. He lived in a "respectable" 
circle, and his good name and his peace of mind 
were precious to him. That good name and peace 
of mind were now in her possession and she meant 
to make him pay dearly for it. She would let him 
retain it, but at a pretty stiff price. It would be 
at the cost of her own life of luxury and self- 

Thus began this sordid and sorrowful tragedy. 
It was mainly from this victim that Mrs. Jackson 
acquired her wealth with which she made such a 


lavish show wherever she went, and not, as she led 
some people to suppose, from the work of her pen, 
which would not have procured her one of the 
meals which heartless blackmail had bought for 
her. It is pretty certain that on one isolated 
occasion only had any intimate intercourse occurred 
betsveen her and her victim, yet for many years 
afterwards the lavish "bleeding" process con- 
tinued. Deeper and deeper into the inextricable 
mire went the luckless man. To keep the dread 
secret safe the man filched and filched from his 
trust funds until the aggregate amount assumed 
formidable proportions. When his falsifications 
had mounted to well-nigh ^20,000, most of which 
had gone into the capacious maw of Mrs. Jackson, 
the truth came to light, and, costly as it had been, 
the dread secret was out and the fierce light of 
public ignominy beat upon the ruined man. 

He was arrested and duly appeared at the police- 
court. His association with Mrs. Jackson, of course, 
became known, and she was called upon to give 
evidence. Then a strange thing occurred. Her 
name was suppressed! Subsequently a judge asked 
why, and the police then explained that they 
thought that by doing this it might lead to restitu- 
tion or partial restitution. Whoever thought that 
must have been poor readers of human nature. 
Restitution from such a woman as Mrs. Jackson! 
The idea was preposterous and they ought to have 
known it. However, this degraded woman, who 
should have been held up to shame and loathing. 


was shielded behind the alias of "Madame X." 
And as such she was known all through it. In fact 
the case became known as the " Madame X Case". 
Eventually the man appeared at the Central 
Criminal Court, although Mrs. Jackson was not 
called there. She appeared only at the police 
court. The man was duly convicted and sentenced 
to five years' penal servitude. The woman went 
back to her debauchery. We do not know what 
happened to the man's unfortunate wife and 
children. Perhaps it would be as well not to 
inquire into it. But our imagination can supply a 
good deal of the story and our hearts feel sore at 
the bitter reflection. 

We will now move forward again to the scene 
and date of the murder. 

When the police searched the bungalow they 
found a motor tyre wrench hidden under a cushion 
on a chair. They took possession of this, as they 
considered that it might very well have been the 
weapon with which the murder had been com- 
mitted. It was not long, as may very well be 
supposed, before suspicion was directed towards 
Jackson, and shortly after, in fact, he was arrested 
and charged with the crime. He protested his 
innocence. The trial took place the following July 
at the Glamorgan Assizes at Swansea, before Mr. 
Justice Wright. Mr. Trevor Hunt, K.C., led for 


the prosecution, and Mr. Jenkin Jones defended 

What was the case for the prosecution ? It was 
by no means a strong one. Mr. Hunt seemed to 
have some difficulty in making it convincing. The 
argument he put forward was that, money having 
run short after the trial at the Old Bailey, Jackson 
was desirous of getting rid of what was now an 
encumbrance to him, that Mrs. Jackson had got 
inside the house on the night of the murder and 
taken off her hat, and that she was at once attacked 
by Jackson, that she ran outside and there fell 
down. The jacket, he also argued, was used by 
Jackson to shield him from getting bloodstained 
and to smother the woman's cries. He said that 
while on the way to the hospital Jackson, although 
he had twice said he would advise the police, did 
not do so. Also that when the two neighbours 
came in he did not say anything about his wife 
having been attacked. He further said that 
Jackson had purposely created an atmosphere of 
mystery about his wife, although there was really 
no mystery about her. 

None of these arguments appear very cogent. 
Was there not mystery about the woman ? Her 
whole life was shrouded in mystery, and necessarily 
so on account of the degraded life she was leading. 
Her watchwords were deceit and mystery. The 
fact that Jackson does not seem to have acquainted 
the police at once is not necessarily significant. 
Different people behave differently in the face of 


emergencies. The police were sure to hear of it, 
and Jackson did, in fact, do his best for his wife 
immediately he found her. Which is scarcely the 
behaviour of a guilty man. No weapon was ever 
found, if you except the motor tyre wrench. And 
one can hardly credit the supposition of the 
prosecution that Jackson, after murdering his wife 
with it, popped it under the cushion so that the 
police could afterwards find it! He would, of 
course, have got rid of it altogether, which would 
not have been a difficult thing to do with such a 
weapon. It was not said, so far as can be ascer- 
tained, whether there were any traces of blood 
upon it. It was, however, evident that no traces 
of blood were to be found upon Jackson himself, 
which, even with the assistance of the jacket as a 
screen, would be very improbable if he were the 

Mrs. Jackson was married, in the first instance, 
to Jackson in her maiden name, Kate Atkinson, 
which was her real name. It transpired during 
the trial that Mrs. Jackson was constantly dreading 
something, that she was always in a very nervous 
condition, which was not surprising under the 
circumstances. She occasionally received anony- 
mous threatening letters, two of which were read 
in court. They were worded as follows : 

*' Lest you forget. This is to tell you that we are 
watching you and we will get you. You husband- 
stealer. You robber of miners' money that would 


have fed starving children; you and that man of 
yours. I suppose he is somebody's husband as 

'' When we get you we will tar and feather you, 
and for every quid you have taken from us you 
will get another lump of tar and one more feather. 

''We will show people you are black outside as 
you are in. We don't mind doing quod for you. 
. . . We will get you yet." 

The other letter ran : 

"Dear Madame, — We are still watching and 
waiting. The pleasure is ours. When you don't 
expect us we will drop on you, and when we have 
finished with you your own mother won't know 

"You foul thing. Call yourself a woman, do 
you ? You are a disgrace to the name. 

"How many more men have you blackmailed 
until they have to pinch money to shut you up ?" 

The prosecution suggested that these letters were 
written by the prisoner for the purpose of leading 
suspicion away from himself, but there was nothing 
but a suggestion in it. There was certainly no 
evidence to confirm it, nor does there appear to 
have been any attempt to do more than throw out 
the suggestion. 

The brother of the dead woman, a Liverpool 
fireman, named Robert Atkinson, gave evidence. 


He said he had not seen his sister for fifteen years. 
The witness, in faltering tones, asked if he might 
make an appeal. When the judge asked him what 
he wanted to say, he said: 

"Only this. I am here representing my family. 

1 want to say that we go out to my brother-in-law 
with open arms and love." 

These words were received with sympathetic 
applause and murmurs. 

Dr. A. F. S. Sladden, of the Swansea Hospital, 
produced a human skull, on which he had marked 
the position of nine wounds found on Mrs. Jackson's 
head, and Detective Wright, of the Swansea police, 
said that he found a pair of woman's gloves on a 
table in the bungalow. On the inside of the right 
hand gauntlet was a piece of earth with a hair 
hanging to it. 

Then came Chief Inspector Collins, of Scotland 
Yard, who testified to taking a long statement from 
Jackson on February 15th, which took the form 
of the story of the prisoner's life. Jackson appears 
to have made a pretty exhaustive confession, 
withholding nothing concerning himself and his 
doings. The statement was begun, so the Inspector 
said, at 10.15 at night, and was continued until 
midnight. There was an interval then until 12.45, 
when the note-taking was continued until about 

2 a.m. The following day the statement was 
continued at 2 p.m. and concluded at 6 p.m. 

This statement contained most of the facts 
already set forth above. In it Jackson said that he 


regarded his wife as a person who had received a 
brilHant education, by reason of her speech and 
personahty. She had told him that she was the 
youngest daughter of the Duke of Abercorn. He 
also related how they came to adopt the girl, Betty, 
and how, on one occasion, at Swansea, a parcel 
of woollies arrived for the child. The inner 
wrapping was addressed to Lord , and Jack- 
son's wife led him to believe that the child was the 
illegitimate offspring of that Peer. Of course there 
was no truth in it. 

One of the witnesses was a man, who said 
that he Uved for a time with "Madame X", 

who was known as Molly B . In reply to 

Mr. Trevor Hunt, he said that he would not 
describe her as being a well-educated woman, 
but clever and a good talker. He was asked by 
counsel whether he had ever written a threaten- 
ing letter to Molly B , and he said that 

he never had. He went on to explain that 
he first met the woman while walking down 
Piccadilly. She was never a model, as was sup- 
posed, but she would occasionally bring him 
manuscripts of stories. She did not write the 
stories. He had thought that the chapter in his 
life connected with this woman was closed for 

Detective Inspector John Dean, of the Metro- 
politan Police, gave particulars of the case at the 
Old Bailey, which has already been dealt with. 
His evidence was merely formal. 


The well-known pathologist, who has appeared 
in so many celebrated cases. Dr. Roche Lynch, 
gave some interesting evidence as to the nature of 
the attack upon Mrs. Jackson. For the purpose of 
illustrating his theories a dressmaker's dummy 
figure was produced in court, on which was fitted 
the jumper and loosely-fitting black coat which 
Mrs. Jackson was wearing at the time she was 
attacked. Dr. Lynch then demonstrated to the 
jury how the cuts in the clothing might have been 
caused. In addition to the tyre lever or wrench, 
a broken bottle had also been suggested as the 
weapon which might have been employed. Dr. 
Lynch said he had experimented with both and 
had succeeded in obtaining similar cuts with both. 
Which, although interesting, was not, it must be 
confessed, very decisive or definite. 

At this stage Mr. Jenkin Jones, on behalf of the 
prisoner, submitted that there was no case to go 
to a jury. The Judge, however, ruled that there 
was, so Mr. Jones called his client to the witness- 
box. Mr. Jackson made a good witness, telling 
his story in a quiet, self-contained and convincing 
manner. He said, referring to his discovery of the 
murder: "I had gone to bed some little time after 
my wife had gone to the cinema. Suddenly I 
heard a peculiar scream, then another, and a third 
at the back of the bungalow. I ran downstairs 
with my dog, which was barking. When I opened 
the back door I saw my wife on the ground with 
one hand slightly raised. She appeared to be on 


her knees. About five or six yards away was Mrs. 

He then went on to describe how he, with the 
assistance of Mrs. Dimick, got his wife inside the 
bungalow. He then went up to dress, leaving 
Mrs. Dimick to bathe his wife's face. When the 
doctor arrived he asked who might have done it, 
and Jackson replied that he had no idea. He then 
referred to the fact that his wife had received 
several anonymous and threatening letters, and that 
she was in consequence in a very nervous condition. 

He then described the taking of a statement 
from him by Inspector Collins. He said that when 
the Inspector suggested stopping, at 2 a.m., he 
said he would rather continue. 

"Did you answer all the questions put to you ?" 
asked Mr. Jones. 

"I answered them all," replied Jackson, "but 
my answers were never put down in my own 

"Did you hide anything?" asked Mr. Jones. 

"I had nothing to hide," quietly replied Jackson. 

"Did you murder your wife?" was Mr. Jones' 
final and crucial question. 

"No," replied Jackson. "I looked after her for 
ten years." 

Jackson was cross-examined by Mr. Trevor 
Hunt. One of his questions was: 

"Did you, within a day or two of the attack on 
your wife, say to more than one person, ' They 
are trying to say I did it' ?" 


"I was only too pleased to answer anything," 
was Jackson's reply, adding, "I am innocent." 

"Were you surprised," continued Mr. Hunt, 
"because you thought that by all your talk about 
mystery you had bluflfed the police into thinking 
you were innocent?" 

"There was no such thing as bluff in what I 
said," protested Jackson. 

"Are you sure," pressed Mr. Hunt, "that 
when your wife returned you did not have a 
quarrel and that you lost your temper?" 

"I never spoke or did anything to my wife 
until I found her outside," replied Jackson 

In this connection it is interesting to refer to 
the evidence of Mrs. Dimick, who said that the 
scream she heard, which was of course the scream 
uttered by Mrs. Jackson when she was being 
attacked, came so quickly after their separating 
that there was not time for Jackson to have had 
any encounter with his wife. 

At the conclusion of counsel's cross-examination, 
Mr. Justice Wright put some questions to the 

" If you thought that some stranger had struck 
your wife's head, why didn't you raise a hue and 
cry at once and call for the police?" 

"I didn't know until after," replied Jackson. "I 
thought she had a cut on the face until we had 
bathed it." 

"You must have seen what she was suffering 


from," continued the Judge, "when the lamp was 
brought out ?" 

''We couldn't see any cut of any description 
until the doctor cut my wife's hair away," said 

*'But someone had struck her violent blows on 
the head?" continued the Judge. 

"We didn't know whether she had been struck 
or had fallen," replied the witness. 

"But there is nothing to fall on," retorted the 
Judge, "the ground is soft." 

Then Mr. Hunt intervened with some supple- 
mentary questions. 

"Why didn't you call the police?" he asked. 

"I didn't think," replied Jackson. 

"But you have said you were frightened," con- 
tinued counsel. "What were you frightened of?" 

" My wife had always been frightened," replied 

" Please answer the question and don't go off in 
a cloud of words," protested Mr. Hunt. "Why 
were you frightened?" 

"I didn't know what had happened," replied 

"Is that the best answer you can give?" asked 

"That is all I can say," said Jackson. 

"Did you ask the doctor to telephone for the 
police?" was counsel's next question. 

"Yes," replied Jackson. 

Here the Judge intervened again. 



"But you knew that someone had manhandled 
your wife," he said. "Why did you not get the 
pohce on the track ?" 

"I thought the doctor would know what to do," 
was Jackson's reply. 

In his statement Jackson had said that when he 
met his wife he had ;£'400, and that he had an idea 
of going to Australia. Counsel asked him why he 
did not go, and he replied that he would not be 
able to pay £140 for fares and still have enough 
to set up in business there. Being pressed very 
hard on this point, Jackson suddenly lost his 
characteristic self-control and made a heated 
reply : 

My money is my own affair ! " he almost shouted. 
What has my money to do with this business ?" 
You will see in a moment," replied Mr. Hunt. 
"Did you on occasions get as indignant with your 
wife as you have just been with me ?" slyly asked 

"I am not indignant," protested Jackson. "I 
was simply wondering about your manner," he 
observed quietly, having cooled down again. 
"Think of what I have been through," he added 
with some emotion, "four months in gaol for 

But Mr. Hunt persisted in pressing his point: 

"But did you ever display the same temper 
with your wife?" he repeated. 

In reply Jackson quietly observed, 

" I never get out of temper." 



Mr. Hunt continued: 

"Did you not think when your wife's money had 
disappeared that it would be good to get rid of her 
and her bad temper?" he asked. 

''She was quick tempered," admitted Jackson, 
''but she was the most charming woman you could 


"Do you think it charming of her to take a 
carving knife to you?" Mr. Hunt asked. 

This incident, referred to by counsel, was 
described in the statement already referred to. 
During one of their squabbles Mrs. Jackson had 
threatened him with a carving knife. 

"Anyone would do that under the impulse of 
the moment," said Jackson. "She never hurt me." 

"But you ran away?" said counsel. 

"That was only sensible," said Jackson, with a 
faint smile. 

"You say that this is a case in which a cloud of 
suspicion has been built up against you," continued 
Mr. Hunt, "but that you have not created 
mystery about your wife to protect yourself?" 

"I have only told you what I know," replied 

The speeches by counsel did not occupy a great 
deal of time. Mr. Jones made an eloquent and 
spirited effort on behalf of his client. His argu- 
ments were both forcible and convincing. He 
declared that there was not sufficient evidence on 
which to condemn a fly. He maintained that 
Jackson's conduct was not that of one who had 


murdered his wife, and that if he had meant to 
murder his wife he would not have adopted the 
painstaking methods he did to revive her. 

The argument adopted by Mr. Hunt on behalf 
of the prosecution was that Jackson had got tired 
of working and earning a livelihood for both, 
after he had been benefiting so extensively from his 
wife in the past. He suggested that on the night 
of the murder the two had a quarrel, and that the 
prisoner's subsequent conduct was consistent with 
his efforts to save himself from the consequences 
of the deed. 

The Judge, during his summing-up, made preg- 
nant observations which were anything but favour- 
able towards the prisoner. He warned the jury 
not to allow sentiment to influence them in their 
judgment. He said it seemed to him that the 
theory of the prosecution was a most reasonable 
and rational one, and that he did not see how any 
other view of the sequence of events, and the 
nature of the attack, was possible. 

"If any stranger did murder this woman," his 
lordship declared, "it must have been the result 
of a deliberate scheme and of set purpose. I have 
heard no evidence which would indicate in any 
way that Mrs. Jackson had any enemies likely to 
do her harm. . . . There is circumstantial evi- 
dence against the prisoner which, I venture to 
think, is very strong. There is no evidence of any 
secret enemy." 

In the face of all that was revealed as to the 


past of the dead woman, these observations on the 
part of the Judge are difficult to understand. 
Clearly he was altogether ignoring the anonymous 
letters, which does not seem fair to the accused, 
since not the slightest evidence was produced to 
even suggest that they were written by the prisoner. 
His lordship was also ignoring the fact that it had 
been clearly demonstrated that Mrs. Jackson was 
at all times very nervous and apprehensive of the 
attack of a secret enemy. 

It is also rather difficult to understand how coun- 
sel for the prosecution could argue, in face of the 
evidence of Mrs. Dimick, that there arose a quarrel 
between Jackson and his wife which led to the 
murder. It takes some time for a quarrel to be 
worked up till it culminates in a deed of killing. 

However, the jury would appear to have thought 
differently from both the Judge and counsel for 
the prosecution, for, after an hour's deliberation, 
they returned with a verdict of acquittal. And it 
seemed to afford the foreman of the jury consider- 
able satisfaction to utter the words, "Not guilty". 

The verdict was received, moreover, with general 
and loudly expressed approval, both inside and 
outside the court. In fact, it assumed the dimensions 
of a full-sized demonstration. 

Thus Jackson returned to his friends a free man, 
and the case has since remained, "unfinished". 
That is to say, the real culprit has never been 
taken. It seems pretty clear, however, that Mrs. 
Jackson was murdered with premeditation and of 


set-purpose by somebody connected with one of 
her many blackmailing exploits. She had evidently 
been watched for some time, and on the night that 
she went to the cinema with her neighbour, Mrs. 
Dimick, the murderer concealed himself somewhere 
near the bungalow, awaiting her return. When she 
arrived he suddenly launched a violent attack 
upon her, and then cleared off before anybody 
had time to appear, taking his weapon with him. 
I think the police would have stood a better 
chance of tracking him if they had not so quickly 
and exclusively fixed their minds upon the pre- 
conceived idea that Jackson was the culprit. 

It will be observed that the same Judge presided 
over this trial as that of the Liverpool insurance 
official, Wallace — Mr. Justice Wright. It is inter- 
esting to compare the two cases, because in each 
instance the jury returned a verdict which did not 
seem to be indicated by the Judge's summing-up. 
In the Liverpool case the story of which follows this, 
Mr. Justice Wright almost directly and definitely 
intimated to the jury that there was not sufficient 
evidence on which to convict. Yet, in spite of that 
weighty opinion, they took little time to arrive at 
a verdict of Guilty. In the Jackson case, as we 
have seen, the jury, in spite of what one must regard 
as a distinctly unfavourable summing-up for the 
prisoner, took about the same time to arrive at a 
verdict of acquittal. 

These are notable exceptions to the general rule. 
There sometimes exist certain factors in the story 


of a crime and in its presentation to the court by 
counsel, which make such an impression on the 
minds of the jurymen that they are led to ignore 
much that the Judge says in his final address. I 
shall presently indicate what I believe brought 
about that state of things in the Liverpool case. 
In the Jackson case there seems to be little doubt 
that the jury were much impressed in Jackson's 
favour by the details which were revealed of the 
odious life led by the dead woman. One can 
scarcely be surprised at this. But in spite of the 
sentimental side of the verdict, I venture to think 
that the finding of the jury was correct upon the 
evidence put forward. 



{The Case of William Herbert Wallace^ Liverpool, 
January, 1931.) 


William Herbert Wallace, living at Wolverton 
Street, Anfield, Liverpool, had for some years 
been employed as an insurance agent. He had 
been many years at the house where he lived, was 
well-known and respected by his neighbours and 
lived happily with his wife. In fact they were 
regarded by all who knew them as an "ideal 
couple". There were no children. The company 
Wallace was employed by was the Prudential. 

Wallace was a member of the Central Chess 
Club, which met at the Central Cafe, North John 
Street. On Monday evening, January 19th, 1931, 
a telephone message was received at the Cafe, 
requesting Wallace to meet a man named Qual- 
trough, at 25 Menlove Gardens East, at 7.30 the 
next night. The message was received by the 
captain of the club, a Mr. Beattie, who passed it 
on to Wallace, at the same time remarking that 
it was "in the nature of your business". Meaning, 



of course, that it was probably from somebody 
who wished to take out an insurance poHcy. 
Wallace repHed that he did not know where 
Menlove Gardens East were. It was known that 
the message came from a call-box situated about 
400 yards from where Wallace lived. The district 
where the appointment was made was some miles 
from Wallace's residence. Although he did not 
know where the particular thoroughfare called 
Menlove Gardens East was, he was pretty familiar 
with the district itself He decided to keep the 
appointment the following evening. 

We now move on to the night of the appointment 
and take note of the following incidents. At 6.30 
that evening a boy delivered milk at Wallace's 
house. He saw and spoke to Mrs. Wallace — 
she was an elderly lady — and that was the 
last that anybody saw of that unfortunate lady 

Wallace left the house at about 6.45, and at 
about 7.6 or 7.10, he boarded a car at the 
junction of Smithdown Lane and Lodge Lane. 
On the way he made active inquiries for Menlove 
Gardens East. He asked two conductors and a 
police constable, two of whom told him that there 
was no such place. While talking to the constable, 
so it was said, he pulled out his watch and remarked, 
"It isn't eight o'clock yet". This may have had 
some connection in his mind with the time of his 
appointment, to the effect, possibly, that there was 
yet time to keep it. 


In a further effort to discover the whereabouts 
of Menlove Gardens East, Wallace entered a news- 
agent's shop in Allerton Road and asked for a 
directory, at the same time informing the pro- 
prietress that he was looking for Menlove Gardens 
East. Apparently he failed to discover the address 
and returned home, where he arrived about 8.30. 
He had, in fact, come to the conclusion that the 
address given him was a false one, and this fact 
aroused suspicions in his mind as to the object of 
the message. Simultaneously with this thought 
there arose in his mind fears as to the safety of 
his wife — a frail little woman, in delicate health — 
so that he returned to his house with all speed. 
The idea which had shaped itself in his mind was 
that the message had been sent by burglars, who 
had used that device to get him out of the way. 

Next to Wallace's house there lived a Mr. 
Johnston. About 8.45 on the night in question, 
that gentleman was leaving his house by the back 
way, with his wife. As he did so he caught sight 
of Wallace, approaching his own back door. Said 
Wallace to his next-door neighbour, "Have you 
heard anything unusual to-night?" Mr. Johnston 
replied, "No, what has happened ?" Then Wallace 
said, "I have tried both the back and the front 
doors, and they are both locked against me". 

Mr. Johnston then suggested that Wallace should 
have another try. Wallace thereupon opened the 
outer door, went along the passage and opened the 
inner door, calling back to Johnston, "It opens 


now". Then the latter said, "Have a look round 
and I will wait". Wallace then entered his house. 
He at once went upstairs, but saw nothing to 
alarm him. He then returned downstairs and went 
into the front sitting-room, where a terrible sight 
met his eyes. His wife was lying dead upon the 
floor! Her head had been battered in. 

In the meantime Mr. Johnston had been following 
the movements of his neighbour up and downstairs 
by means of the light that the latter carried. He 
was rather anxious to know whether things were 
all right inside, and presently Wallace came out 
again in a state of agitation and exclaimed, " Come 
and see. She has been killed". Thereupon Mr. 
Johnston and his wife went inside and saw the 
body of Mrs. Wallace lying on the floor. Wallace 
then took them into the kitchen and pointed to a 
cabinet, the door of which had been wrenched off. 
He also took down a cash-box, which was on a 
shelf about 7 ft. high, opened it and announced 
that about £/^ was missing. These discoveries 
seemed to confirm the burglary theory. 

Near the body of Mrs. Wallace was a bloodstained 
mackintosh or raincoat. This belonged to Wallace, 
had been used by him that day, and usually hung 
up in the hall. Mrs. Wallace had been killed by 
being struck many times over the head with some 
blunt instrument. A poker and a metal rod were 
missing from the house. They were never found. 
Either of these, it was confidently conjectured, 
might have been the weapon employed. 


There were some peculiar features about this 
murder. There was no blood anywhere except 
near where the body lay. With two exceptions. 
In the bedroom upstairs, where the Wallaces slept, 
there was a vase on the mantelpiece. In this, 
sticking out and plain for anybody to see, were 
five Treasury notes. Upon one of these was a 
bloodstain. There was also a small stain of blood 
on the pan of a W.C. upstairs. The room in which 
the body of Mrs. Wallace was found was not one 
in which the Wallaces usually lived, but was only 
used on special occasions, when, for instance, a 
friend might call. The Wallaces invariably lived 
in the kitchen. There was a gas-fire in the sitting- 
room, which had been lighted. In the kitchen, on 
the table, was a newspaper, which Mrs. Wallace 
had been reading. Also some sewing, which she 
had been employed in. Therefore it would seem 
that she had gone into the front room for some 
special purpose. If it was for the purpose of 
receiving a caller, then it must have been some- 
body with whom she was acquainted, or who had 
legitimate business to discuss with her. 

It was surmised that she had been struck, either 
while seated in the chair, near which her body was 
found, and then fallen over, or else while she was 
in the act of lighting the gasfire. The mackintosh 
was partly burnt, as though it had come into 
contact with the fire. She had a bad cold, and it 
was thought that she might have put the mackintosh 
round her shoulders, and that when she fell the 


mackintosh came up against the flame of the fire. 
These, of course, were mere conjectures. 

Thus was accompHshed and discovered one of 
the most baffling murders of modern — or for that 
matter of any — times. The body of Mrs. Wallace 
was removed to the mortuary and the police took 
charge of the case. 

The first assumption was that the murder was 
the work of burglars, who had broken into the 
house and robbed it. The murder was a mere 
"incident" in the task of obtaining spoil. The 
burglars were supposed to have "silenced" the 
only obstacle to the achievement of their desires. 
But there were certain fundamental objections to 
this theory. In the first place the house in which 
the Wallaces lived was a small one, and not likely 
to attract the ordinary professional cracksman, 
and it is inconceivable that any but an ordinary 
cracksman would have attempted such a "job". 
In addition to this, the crime occurred early in the 
evening, hours before burglaries usually occur. 
Furthermore — and this was an extremely difficult 
objection to surmount — there was not the slightest 
sign of a forcible entry having been made. In 
addition to these obstinate facts was the presence 
of the Treasury notes in the vase upstairs, which 
would certainly not have been left behind by 
burglars. Nor would burglars, it would appear 
safe to assume, have indulged in the elaborate 
process of sending a bogus telephone message the 
day before. They would probably have watched 


Wallace away from the house — having previously 
made themselves acquainted with his movements 
— and then entered. 

Evidently the police became impressed with these 
peculiar facts, and carried on their investigations 
accordingly. It is true that at first they entertained 
the possibility of a burglarious entry, and Detective 
Superintendent Hubert Moore, who took charge 
of the proceedings, telephoned from Anfield Road 
Station to all inspectors to detail men to all lodging- 
houses, railway-stations and night cafes. Efforts 
were also made to discover the weapon. Drains 
were searched and open spaces examined, but 
without result. 

It was pretty clear that whoever the murderer 
was he must have been extensively splashed with 
blood. Wallace was searched and closely examined 
by the police, but not a trace of blood was found 
on him. He also made a statement to the police, 
in which he detailed his movements prior to and 
subsequent to the murder. He said that he and 
his wife had tea in the kitchen, where cups and 
saucers were, in fact found, and that afterwards 
he left to keep the appointment with his mysterious 
messenger. The statement ended with the words, 
"I have no suspicion of anyone". 

Two days later, however, on the 22nd, Wallace 
called at the Detective Office in Dale Street and 
said, "I think I have some important information 
for you". He then made a further statement, in 
which he named certain individuals who might 


have been concerned in the crime. The names of 
these individuals were rightly suppressed. One of 
them, however, was known as "Mr. P." He was 
said at one time to have been employed by the 
Prudential and, Wallace declared, had collected 
premiums he had not paid in. Wallace further 
stated that the insurance superintendent had told 
him, Wallace, that the parents of " Mr. P." had paid 
about £2i^ in settlement of these defalcations. This 
story^ was subsequently revised by an official of the 
Prudential Company, who contradicted that part of it 
connected with th*e £^^0 supposed to have been paid, 
and said that a "certain sum" was merely offered. 

Wallace also furnished further particulars about 
"Mr. P." to the effect that he had visited at his 
house, was known by Mrs. Wallace, and that he 
was familiar with his, Wallace's, movements and 
habits as to collections and the keeping of money 
in the house. He also cited another person who 
had likewise worked for the company and had 
taken his, Wallace's, place for a time during an 
illness he had had the previous December. This 
individual also, suggested Wallace, had had 
"financial irregularities" with the company. Both 
these men, explained Wallace, were well known to 
Mrs. Wallace, who would have had no hesitation 
in admitting either of them. 

In addition to these names, Wallace supplied 
those of many other business friends and acquaint- 
ances who would have been admitted without 
hesitation by Mrs. Wallace, had they called. 


Another incident, which impressed the poUce 
very much, occurred as follows. 

One day, after having been to the Dale Street 
Detective Office, Wallace met the captain of his 
Chess Club, a Mr. Beattie, who, it will be remem- 
bered, received the mysterious telephone message 
for Wallace. The latter asked him to be more 
definite as to the time the message was received, 
at the same time remarking, "It is of great import- 
ance to me". The police said that they could not 
understand why it should be of such importance 
to him. He was asked by Superintendent Moore 
why he considered it to be so important to him, 
and Wallace's reply was, "I had an idea. We all 
have ideas. It was indiscreet of me". 

When one takes all these facts into consideration 
one can scarcely be surprised that eventually the 
police decided to arrest Wallace and charge him 
with the murder of his wife. This event occurred 
on February 2nd. Wallace's reply was, " What can 
I say to such a charge, of which I am absolutely 

He was arrested by Superintendent Moore and 
taken before the magistrates as usual. He was 
eventually committed to take his trial at the 
Liverpool Assizes. He protested his innocence all 


It must be admitted that the police had a difficult 
case to build up, but they succeeded in doing it 
with remarkable skill. Their arguments were 


certainly very strong, and we shall deal with these 
in due order. 

First the telephone message. Their argument as 
to this was that it was sent by Wallace himself, in 
order to create an alibi. It was clear, said they, that 
if anybody else had been desirous of getting Wallace 
out of the way, he need not have resorted to this 
device, for he could have waited near the house until 
he had seen Wallace leave in the ordinary course of 
things and then got in. How would he know also, 
having sent the message, that it would not be 
received by Wallace himself ? In addition to this, 
and assuming that the man who sent the message 
was indeed a genuine client desirous of taking out 
a policy, why did he not write to Wallace at his 
house or even call there ? Again, reverting to the 
burglar theory, having sent the message, the 
burglar or burglars would then have to keep watch 
on the house to make sure that Wallace had 
left. As he might leave from either the front or 
the back way, they would have to keep watch on 
both sides of the house. If only one man was 
involved in it, this would be rather a difficult task. 
Altogether the telephone message seemed to the 
police a very unconvincing incident, from the 
point of view of burglars. 

Not unreasonably, they watched Wallace and 
his movements very closely. One of the officers 
remembered that on the afternoon of the murder 
he passed him in the street, and that he noticed 
that Wallace looked very pale and agitated, the 


inference being of course that he then had in con- 
templation the crime of which he was subsequently 

In connection with the murder itself, they put 
forward a very startling theory. The fact that 
Wallace had not a trace of blood upon him seemed 
a flat contradiction of his possible guilt, bearing 
in mind the fact that the murderer must certainly 
have been much bloodstained. The presence of the 
mackintosh near the body supplied them with an 
explanation, or what they considered to be an 
explanation. Wallace, they contended, in order to 
avoid becoming bloodstained, had stripped himself 
naked and then donned the mackintosh, which 
would have covered most of his body, leaving only 
the lower part of his legs exposed. Any blood he 
may have got upon them he must have washed 
off, afterwards dressing himself again. It was said 
that he may even have had a bath. It was certainly 
rather unfortunate for this theory that no trace 
of anybody having had a bath in the bathroom 
upstairs could be discovered. The only towel found 
there was quite dry. As this examination was made 
soon after the murder was committed, had the 
towel been in use it would certainly have been 
wet then. 

The police also laid stress upon the fact that 
although Wallace, in the first instance, stated 
definitely that he suspected nobody, he soon after, 
as we have seen, made a further statement, in 
which he supplied the names of a good many 


people whom he would appear to have suspected. 
Why had he altered his mind on this point so 
completely and so quickly ? 

Another factor which the police considered to be 
of importance was the behaviour of Wallace 
immediately after the crime was discovered. He 
was described by several officers who were present 
as being absolutely cool and indifferent, smoking 
cigarettes and behaving generally not at all like 
a man who had just discovered that his wife had 
been brutally done to death. This, of course, is a 
psychological point. All people do not behave alike 
in the face of an emergency. Some are cool, while 
others are greatly agitated. It is a matter of 
temperament, apparently. A good deal has been 
said and written about the mien of a prisoner in 
the dock, in relation to guilt or innocence, but I 
am afraid that the inference sometimes drawn 
cannot be altogether relied upon. Nevertheless, 
officials who have had long experience of studying 
prisoners in the dock can generally and pretty 
reliably "spot" an old hand, however much he 
may strive to conceal the fact. By the same means 
he would probably be enabled to discern the 
presence of a first offender or even of an innocent 
person. But there is no hard-and-fast rule one can 
lay down on the question. That is to say, one 
cannot argue that because the occupant of the 
dock is calm and collected that he is necessarily 
either innocent or guilty. He may be either. You 
can argue on the one hand that calmness indicates 


consciousness of innocence, or that it means an old 
hand is merely putting up an effective bit of 
histrionic ability. And you might be right. So, too 
much importance should not be attributed to the 
behaviour of Wallace upon that occasion. It 
resolves itself into a mere matter of opinion and 
has not much evidential value. 

The police, however, were on firmer ground 
when they came to the return of Wallace to his 
house and his discovery of the murder. When his 
neighbour, Mr. Johnston, as will be recalled, saw 
him he said that both back and front doors were 
locked against him. Yet almost directly after he 
opened the back door with ease. The lock of the 
front door was known to have been out of order for 
some time, and would occasionally "stick", which 
would account for his not being able to open it. 
The contention of the police was, of course, that 
this show of being locked out of his house by 
Wallace was done purposely to impress his neigh- 
bour with the burglary theory and in support of 
his alibi. 

Reverting to the message received over the 
telephone. We have seen that the police con- 
tention was that Wallace sent this message himself 
in order to create an alibi. But the gentleman 
who received the message, the captain of the Chess 
Club, Mr. Beattie, emphatically declared that the 
voice of the speaker was not that of Wallace. In 
any event, a voice heard over the telephone has 
not much evidential value, and in a serious charge 


such as that of murder, would be very dangerous 
to rely upon. It is true that one may recognise a 
voice over the telephone, and it is equally true 
that one may be deceived about a voice heard over 
the telephone. Supposing you know the speaker 
very well and are in the habit of listening to his 
voice over the telephone, you may be pretty 
confident that you will know it. Yet, as I have 
pointed out, you may be deceived. Voices differ 
a good deal, people do not always speak in precisely 
the same tone, or the telephone may be slightly 
out of order and so distort the voice. Another 
important point is that, as there are striking 
similarities in faces and walks and human backs, 
so there are, as it were, "doubles" in voices. So 
that one might suppose that one is listening to the 
voice of a man one is acquainted with, to find 
subsequently that it is, however, that of an entire 
stranger, endowed with a similar voice to one's 
friend. All of which emphasizes the danger of 
accepting a voice over a telephone as evidence in a 
trial for murder. 

Unless, of course, it is strongly corroborated 
with some other relevant and proven facts. And 
the police, in the Wallace case, sought to provide 
this corroboration by producing evidence as to 
the time Wallace left his home, which would fit 
in with the supposition that he himself sent the 
telephonic message. It would also confirm motive. 
Here they found themselves up against some nice 
calculations. They had to rely upon the not 


always reliable factor of time as testified to by 
human agency. They produced a boy who swore 
that he delivered milk, as already recorded, at 
Wallace's house, and then saw Mrs. Wallace alive 
at the hour of 6.30 on the evening of the murder. 
This would enable the murder to have been 
committed and Wallace to keep the appointment 
made over the telephone by the mysterious " Mr. 
Qualtrough". If anybody saw Mrs. Wallace at a 
later hour it would upset the case for the police, 
or go a good way towards doing so. The defence 
did, in fact, produce another witness, a boy who 
delivered a newspaper at the house at a later time 
and saw Mrs. Wallace. The police witness also 
was induced, under cross-examination, to alter 
slightly the hour at which he said he was at the 
house, putting it forward some minutes. Supposing 
this evidence was reliable, the police case became 
weakened and jeopardised thereby. The police 
were also blamed for not themselves producing 
this witness, in fact, were accused of purposely and 
designedly keeping him in the background, know- 
ing that his evidence was in favour of the defence. 
The police, in response, denied this, explaining 
that they considered the witness they had called 
sufficient for the purpose, and that they needed no 
other to confirm their contention. Which seems a 
reasonable explanation. 

But unfortunately the important, and as I have 
pointed out rather unreliable factor of time, as 
dealt with through human agency, has many times 


before both confused and confounded the most 
carefully prepared case, on one side or the other. 
It is sometimes as little reliable as is the evidence 
of identification by memory of faces — that prolific 
producer of miscarriage of justice. 

The above were the principal points in the case 
for the prosecution, which, one must confess, was 
far from being unassailable. 

The trial was duly heard on Wednesday, April 
22nd, 1 93 1, and three succeeding days, at the 
Liverpool Assizes, before Mr. Justice Wright. The 
case for the prosecution was entrusted to the 
capable hands of Mr. E. G. Hemmerde, K.G., 
Recorder of Liverpool, who had with him Mr. 
Leslie Walsh. The prisoner was most ably defended 
by Mr. Roland Oliver, K.C., who was accompanied 
by Mr. S. Scholefield Allen. The case aroused 
great interest, as may well be imagined, not only 
locally but throughout the country. The prisoner 
was described as William Herbert Wallace, fifty- 
two, an insurance agent, and he was charged with 
the wilful murder of his wife, Julia. As is usual 
nowadays, at these grim functions, there were 
many women present in court. 

I have already presented the outline of the case 
for the prosecution, but I propose further to 
reproduce some portions of the speech for the 
prosecution, and thus present to the reader some 
of the forceful arguments of counsel in support of 
the police case. 

Dealing with the incident of the receipt of the 


telephonic message at the chess club, Mr. Hem- 
merde said: 

"This chess club is not a club that advertises. 
It is a little club, and the meeting there would be 
known only to a few members. You may think it 
curious that a stranger to the prisoner, speaking 
from a place 400 yards from his house, where, 
according to him, he actually was at the time 
(Wallace was supposed to have been at home 
when the message was received at the club), 
should have rung up the City Cafe. You would 
have thought that he might have called at the 
house, written to the house, or left a note there. 
You will have to consider whether this giving of this 
name and address was part of a cunningly-laid 
scheme to create an alibi for the next night, or 
whether it was a genuine message. 

"One would imagine that a person knowing the 
Menlove Avenue district, as the prisoner did, would 
have an idea that Menlove Gardens would — as a 
matter of fact they do — open off Menlove Avenue. 
We are dealing with a man who was in the district 
from time to time, having music lessons quite 


It should be explained that Wallace was at the 
time taking music lessons in the district in which 
the appointment was made and in which he failed 
to discover the address named. 

"You may think," continued counsel, "that 
some of the ignorance developed by the prisoner 
on this occasion was not genuine, but was assumed, 


because it was necessary, if we are taking the right 
view of the facts, that he should, as far as possible, 
draw attention to the fact that the next night he 
was going at 7.30 to be somewhere some miles 
away from his house. 

"At 6.30 on the night of the tragedy a boy 
delivered milk at the Wallaces' house. He spoke 
to Mrs. Wallace, and that was the last time she was 
seen alive. We know that at that time, from 
Wallace's own statement, he was there, and 
apparently left the house somewhere about 6.45, 
and you may take it that if he is guilty of this 
atrocious crime, it must have been committed 
within the time from 6.30 to about 6.50, because 
between 7.6 and 7.10 he boarded a car at the 
junction of Smithdown Lane and Lodge Lane." 

Mr. Hemmerde then dealt with the incident of 
Wallace's return to his house. 

"Remember that he is living there," said counsel, 
"with a woman of about his own age, who, as far 
as we know, hasn't an enemy in the world — a frail, 
rather old-fashioned woman — in one of those little 
streets where you would hardly expect burglars to 
find a very rich harvest. Immediately he found 
out, as he says, that there was no Menlove Gardens 
East, he hurried home, because he felt suspicious. 
Why he should feel suspicious because someone 
had given him a wrong address it is difficult to gather. 

"Now, mark what happens when he hurries 
home. At 8.45 Mr. Johnston, who lives next door 
at No. 31, was leaving the house through the back 


entry with his wife. As Mr. Johnston comes into 
the entry he sees the prisoner going towards his 
own entry door. The prisoner says to Mr. Johnston 
— remember he is only just home — 'Have you 
heard anything unusual to-night ? ' Mr. Johnston 
says, 'No, what has happened?' Wallace says, 
'I have tried the back and front, and they are 
locked against me'. Mr. Johnston suggested that 
he should try again, and Wallace opened the yard 
door, and went up to the kitchen door, and said, 
'It opens now'. Then said Mr. Johnston, 'Look 
round and I will wait'. 

"Suppose you come to the conclusion that these 
doors never were shut against him, that the front 
door, which has an odd and troublesome lock, was 
in the condition it had been in for a very long time, 
and that the back door was open ? You then 
come to the conclusion that the man who could 
perfectly well get in if he wanted to, pretended 
that he could not get in. 

"Now follow Wallace's course about the house. 
If you went into a house like that, where would 
you go if you left your wife downstairs ? Would 
you have looked in the downstairs room or gone 
upstairs ? It is clear that Wallace goes upstairs 
and then comes down and goes into the sitting- 
room at the front of the house. Then he finds his 
wife dead on the floor. Her head was battered in 
with — apparently — one terrific blow, and then ten 
others; eleven brutal blows. She had been dead 
at least three hours." 


Mr. Hemmcrdc then dealt with the incident of 
the partly burnt mackintosh. 

*' Who had an interest in destroying that mack- 
intosh ?" he asked. ''Assuming that someone had 
broken into that house — there is no trace at all 
that anyone did — and then killed this woman, it is 
possible that such a person might have taken down 
the raincoat and put it on to prevent the blood 
getting upon his clothes, but, having done so, why 
should a stranger to the house want to destroy the 
mackintosh ? What concern would it be for a 
man of criminal intention who came in and killed 
this woman to destroy someone else's raincoat ? 

"There is plenty of blood upon the coat, but 
there was no blood whatever to be found on the 
prisoner's clothes. Although there was blood in 
the sitting-room and although the person who did 
this clearly went upstairs immediately afterwards, 
there is not the faintest trace of blood on the stairs. 
The man who broke that woman's skull and killed 
her, left her in a pool of blood, and got upstairs 
without leaving the slightest trace, but in the 
lavatory, in the pan of the water-closet, there was 
a clot of blood — the same blood, you will hear, as 
the woman bled downstairs. 

"There was in that room downstairs, and had 
been for some time by the gas-stove, a sort of 
iron poker, amply sufficient to have done this 
deed. The day after this tragedy this poker was 

(Mr. Hemmerde here held up a metal rod about 


1 8 inches long, which, he said, was similar to the 
poker referred to.) 

"I would now draw your attention to the fact 
that there is no blood whatever on the stairs, 
because the Crown suggests to you that whoever 
did this deed was taking elaborate precautions. 
The history of our own criminal courts shows 
what elaborate precautions people sometimes take. 
One of the most famous criminal trials turned 
on a man committing a crime when he was 

"A man might very well commit a crime wearing 
a raincoat, like one might wear a dressing-gown, 
come down as he was just going to have a bath, 
with nothing on upon which blood could fasten, 
and, with anything like care, he might get away 
leaving the raincoat there, and perform the 
necessary washing, if he were very careful. There 
was hot and cold water in the kitchen, but whoever 
did this deed did not take advantage of that fact. 
He went upstairs and, as I suggest to you, went 
with great caution." 

Such were the main arguments contained in the 
case for the Crown, as presented by Mr. Hemmerde. 
A friend of Wallace's, of many years standing, 
testified that Wallace was a placid, intellectual 
man, varied in habits and studies, and never giving 
any signs of violent temper. He was of a scientific 
turn, and had a chemical laboratory in his back 
bedroom. At one time he gave lectures on a 
scientific subject at the Technical School, Byrom 


Street. Tliis friend also declared that Wallace and 
his wife were a happy couple. 

These facts were, of course, brought out by- 
counsel for the defence, Mr. Oliver, who strenuously 
and emphatically challenged the assertions and 
arguments of the prosecution. There can be no 
doubt that he succeeded in shaking a good deal of 
the evidence produced against his client. One of 
the witnesses produced by the prosecution, and 
whose evidence subsequently led to a good deal 
of controversy, was the police surgeon. Professor 
J. E. W. M'Fall. I shall reproduce some of his 
evidence. He testified as follows: 

"I arrived at the house at 9.50 on the night of 
the murder. Mrs. Wallace's body lay face down- 
wards. The head was badly battered in on the 
left side above and in front of the ear, where there 
was a large open wound, approximately half an 
inch by three inches, from which bone and brain 
substance was protruding. At the back, on the 
left of the head, there was a big depression of the 
skull with several wounds. There was a large 
patch of blood clot on the edge of the rug and 
another large patch and a piece of bone by the 
edge of the matting on which the head was 

"The hands and lower arms were cold, but the 
upper arms and body were warm. Rigor mortis 
was present in the left arm and neck. The head 
was fixed rigidly. I came to the conclusion that 
death had taken place quite four hours before ten 


o'clock. The margin of error could not possibly 
be more than half an hour to an hour." 

"Could you form a view where Mrs. Wallace 
was when the blow was struck?" asked Mr. 

"Yes," replied the witness, "in front of the 
armchair by the fireplace. I think it is a little too 
low to be standing. It suggests itself to my mind 
that the person had been sitting on the chair with 
her head slightly forward turned to the left, as if 
talking to someone. The wound in front of Mrs. 
Wallace's head was the most severe, and, in my 
opinion, was the first blow struck. All the blows 
could be inflicted in less than half a minute, and 
death would take place practically immediately 
with the first blow. The other ten blows would 
be struck when the head lay on the floor." 

The witness agreed that a piece of metal like 
that produced might have inflicted the injuries. 
He did not think, however, that the mackintosh 
found near the body had, as was suggested, been 
thrown over her shoulders by Mrs. Wallace. 

Dr. M'Fall made these observations as to the 
demeanour of Wallace upon the occasion of his, 
Dr. M'Fall's, visit to the house: 

"I was very much struck with his demeanour. 
It was abnormal. He was too quiet, too collected 
for a person whose wife had been killed in that 
way. He was not nearly so affected as I was 
myself. He was smoking cigarettes most of the 



I have already made observations about this 
part of the evidence. It is a matter of opinion, 
and opinions will always differ on the point. 

Professor MTall made this pregnant suggestion 
concerning what he considered to be the mental 
condition of the man who committed the deed : 

" I have seen many of this kind, and know that 
it is no ordinary case of assault or serious injury. 
It is a case of frenzy." 

This was tantamount to suggesting that the 
prisoner committed the deed during an attack of 
temporary insanity, which would, of course, fill up 
the gap created by the absence of a motive. This 
brought Mr. Oliver to his feet with this sharp 
retort : 

"So, if this is the work of a maniac, and Wallace 
is a sane man, he did not do it?" 

To which Dr. MTall responded: 

"He may be sane now." 

But Mr. Oliver would not accept this solution, 
and continued with determination: 

"The fact that a man has been sane fifty-two 
years, and has been sane while in custody for the 
last three months, would rather tend to prove that 
he has always been sane ?" 

"Not necessarily," persisted the witness, adding 
these significant words, which caused most people 
to ponder deeply: "We know very little about the 
private lives of people, or their thoughts." 

It seemed pretty clear that the bloodstain on 
one of the notes found upstairs, and that in the 


lavatory, might have been made by the fingers of 
the poUce during their investigations. At one time 
the house was nearly full of police officials. 

There appeared to be a good deal of uncertainty, 
which was never definitely cleared up, as to how 
much money was on the premises at the time of 
the murder. An official of the Prudential stated 
that Wallace's collections might have been any- 
thing from jT'^o to ;^ioo. It depended upon the 
day of the week and as to whether certain premiums 
fell due. The sum evidently varied a good deal. 
When Wallace examined the cash-box he gave it 
as his opinion, you will remember, that there were 
only a few pounds missing, and he certainly 
should have known. On the ground, just below 
where the cash-box had stood on the top of the 
cabinet, were several silver coins, as though they 
had been dropped in the hurry of ransacking the 

In this connection it might be mentioned that 
Wallace had over ^^150 to his credit at the bank, 
which was his own money and had no connection 
with the money which he had collected for the 
company. It went to prove that he was not in 
any way in want of funds. If the murder were 
committed for robbery it seems uncertain how 
much money the culprit managed to get away 

Superintendent Moore, in his evidence, stated 
that Wallace wanted to sleep at the house on 
the night of the murder but that he would not 


permit it. Instead he sent him by motor-car to 
the house of liis sister-in-law, some miles away. 
\Vallace did, however, the Superintendent went 
on to explain, in fact sleep at the house on the 
night of the 22nd. The following morning Wallace 
attended at the police-station and gave the police 
a good deal of assistance in connection with their 
investigations in the case. 

A point was made by the prosecution in con- 
nection with the mackintosh which was found near 
the body. It belonged to Wallace and had been 
hanging up in the hall. When he was asked about 
this garment, said Superintendent Moore, he 
hesitated a good deal before acknowledging that 
it was his. The prosecution maintained that there 
need have been no hesitation on his part, as it 
was obviously his coat. Mr. Oliver explained this 
hesitation by stating that he, Wallace, had been 
asked so many times about it before, when he had 
already acknowledged the ownership, that he began 
to wonder whether it was in fact his coat. Hence 
the hesitation. 

It should always be borne in mind that in cases 
of murder, or any other serious forms of crime, the 
importance of the smallest detail is magnified to 
the utmost dimensions. I am not losing sight of 
the fact, however, that quite trifling incidents 
prove sometimes to be of the greatest significance. 
But not all of them which emerge at a criminal 
trial. One had to be very cautious in forming a 


Mr. Oliver made a most vigorous and trenchant 
speech in his opening for the defence. I shall quote 
some of its most telling passages. He said: 

"This case has been thrown at the jury. In 
effect the Crown have said, ' If he did not do it, 
who did ? ' That is not the way to approach it. 
It should be asked, ' Who is the man ? ' We know 
something of Wallace now. He is fifty, a delicate, 
mild man, liked by everyone who knows him; a 
man of considerable education, and refined, and, 
as his diary showed (Wallace kept a diary, which 
was found in the house), one with considerable 
gifts of expression. That is the man charged with 
this frightful crime. 

"The question you must ask is, 'Why?' There 
is no suggestion of ill-feeling between Wallace and 
his wife. He has £1^2 in the bank. He had 
nothing to gain, and there is no suggestion of any 
other woman. If you are going to convict a man 
for murder on the flimsiest circumstantial evidence, 
can you possibly say why ?" 

Counsel referred contemptuously to Professor 
M'Fall and his theory as to "frenzy", which, he 
declared, he had no right to have put forward. 

"I have nothing to say against my learned 
friend, Mr. Hemmerde, in this matter," he ex- 
plained. "The witness forced this theory upon 
the court because he realised, as the police realised, 
that this motiveless crime, alleged to have been 
committed by a devoted husband, presented almost 
insuperable problems. In fifty-two years no one 


has ever suggested that the prisoner was not 
perfectly sane. He has been under medical super- 
vision ever since his arrest, and I ask you to dis- 
regard Dr. MTall's statement. 

"I suggest to you that this deed was not the 
result of sudden fury. If the accused did this thing, 
he calculated it all out at least twenty-four hours 
before, for the prosecution's case stands or falls 
on the authenticity of the telephone call twenty- 
four hours before. It can be proved that this 
perfectly normal man was behaving perfecdy 
normally throughout January igth and 20th, 
which means that, contemplating this frightful 
crime, he was going about his daily business and 
showing no signs of it ! 

"Let me say now that this is what is sometimes 
called a police case. If there is one kind of crime 
that is an abomination to the police, it is an un- 
solved murder. Everybody attacks them if they 
cannot get a solution. They are apt to take a 
biased view of the case, and pursue it relentlessly. 

''Thus, because Constable Rothwell sees Wallace 
with his hands to his eyes, he was 'ghastly' and 
'wiping his eyes', thinking, of course, of the crime 
he was going to commit that evening! I can call 
as many witnesses as you want to hear to say that 
on the day of the murder there was nothing the 
matter with Wallace at all." 

I would like to introduce a few remarks here. 
Counsel, I suggest, was rather unfair to the police. 
It scarcely needs any pointing out that it is as much 


the business of the police to use their best endeavours 
to prove their case against an accused person as it 
is the business of counsel for the defence to get his 
client off if he can, independent of whether he 
believes in his client's innocence or guilt, as the 
case may be. I venture to point out that Mr. 
Oliver was also not fair to the police when he made 
the observation about unsolved murders. When 
the police have presented their case they have 
fulfilled their duty. If the verdict goes against them 
it is not their fault. They have nothing to blame 
or reproach themselves with about it. Of course 
if the verdict confirms them it conveys a certain 
amount of satisfaction, just as it does to counsel 
when the verdict goes in his favour. I think we 
may allow that the police, under such circum- 
stances, are not unscrupulous, as counsel would 
have us believe, but merely conscientious, as they 
should be. 

Therefore the police can scarcely be blamed for 
putting forward the evidence of Constable Roth- 
well, in spite of the fact — and surely counsel should 
have pointed this out — that it conflicted with the 
evidence given by other witnesses as to the prisoner's 
remarkable calmness and indifference after the murder 
had been committed! Which proves how difficult 
it is to determine the evidential value of a person's 
demeanour in an emergency. 

Mr. Oliver continued: 

" Where is the evidence to support the suggestion 
that Wallace sent the telephone message to himself? 


Three operators said it was a perfectly ordinary 
man's voice, and Mr. Beattie, who had known 
Wallace for well over eight years, said it would 
require a great stretch of imagination to think the 
voice was Wallace's. If he did not send that 
message he is an innocent man, and how can you 
say that the prosecution has even started to prove 
that he sent it ? For two hours he played chess 
wdth that message in his pocket, and won his game. 
What do you think must have been going on in his 
mind if that was his message, and the stepping- 
stone to the murder of his wife ? What sort of 
chess would he play ? 

"It may occur to you that a man planning the 
murder would avoid telephoning to Wallace when 
Wallace himself might answer the call. If he had 
watched Wallace away from his house on the 1 2th, 
why did he not go in then and do the murder ? 
One reason against it is that the watcher could not 
be sure he had gone to the chess club. Another is 
that there would be more money in the house on 
the Tuesday evening. 

" If Wallace had, as alleged by the police, been 
preparing an alibi, it would have been some 
preparation to say that his wife would have let in 
Qualtrough, or anyone else, had they called; but, 
in actual fact, he had said that she would let no one 
in unless she had known them personally. He also 
said that he could not think of anyone who knew 
he would be going to the club. These things speak 
loudly against its being a concocted alibi." 


Mr. Oliver then proceeded to put what he termed 
the "vital point in the case": 

" When was Mrs. Wallace last seen alive ? It is 
common ground that Wallace must have left the 
house within a minute or two of 6.45 p.m. If 
he left even at 7.30 he was almost certain to be 
innocent, but if he left at any time after 6.30 he 
must be innocent. 

*'In considering what the murderer had to do 
between the crime and leaving the house, you must 
remember that Wallace was searched the same 
night, and there was no trace of blood on his 
clothes, hands, face, or body; yet, according to 
witnesses, he must have been heavily spotted with 
blood. Before he left he must be absolutely clean. 
His clothes could not be washed, but would have 
to be got rid of. For the first time we now hear 
the suggestion that Wallace was naked in a 
mackintosh. If so, his hair, hands, and legs from 
the knees down would be covered with blood. He 
would have to have a bath and dress himself 
There was no sign that anyone had had a bath at 
that time." 

Other vital points in the evidence for the pro- 
secution Mr. Oliver dealt with as follows: 

"The bar of iron which has been mentioned in 
the case as being the probable weapon employed, 
has not been found in the only piece of waste 
ground on the prisoner's way that night, or in any 
drain. Where is it ? It would have taken time to 
burn the mackintosh. If the witness, Close, is 


right, W^allace had from 6.30 or some time later, 
until about a quarter to seven, but I will call 
three other witnesses on this point, against whom 
not a word can be said. One of these says that 
Close stated afterwards that he had seen Mrs. 
Wallace alive at a quarter to seven when he 
delivered the milk. When this came to the knowl- 
edge of the police it must have been a terrible 
shock, for, if Close had delivered the milk at a 
quarter to seven, this man is clear. The argument 
of the delivered milk at 6.30 is, I suppose, that it 
gives sufficient time for the crime to have been 
committed. Close subsequently altered the time 
to between 6.30 and a quarter to seven. That is 
half-way between the truth and the police case. 

"As to why the accused should act at all on a 
message from an unknown person, I would remind 
you that it was business in which he might draw 
20 per cent commission. There is nothing 'dread- 
fully suspicious' about his conversation with the 
tramway man. Everything he did was perfectly 
rational. There is no rag of evidence except police 

"The defence has been wretchedly hampered by 
the police withholding the names of witnesses 
whom they were not calling. Are the police afraid 
to help the defence ? There is no reason why these 
people should not have been called except that 
their evidence does not fit in with the police case. 
The police have done everything to draw ropes in 
front of this man to prevent facts coming out." 


Again counsel was most unjust to the police. 
I think it may very well be that the ultimate and 
surprising result of the trial was due not a little 
to this unfair criticism of the police. Surely Mr. 
Oliver does not suggest that the police, in addition 
to working on their own case, should also work 
upon that of the defence ! There is nothing at all 
unreasonable or out of order in the police refraining 
from calling certain witnesses. Why should they 
call a witness whose evidence would conflict with 
their theory, and be hostile to the evidence of other 
witnesses whom they do call ? How could a 
prosecution be maintained on such lines ? 

Mr. Oliver dealt with the evidence of the mac- 
kintosh, found near the body, in the following 
manner : 

"The police theory is that the murderer threw 
it down when he had committed the crime. You 
have a photograph showing the mackintosh put as 
if it had been so thrown down, but the police 
superintendent has said that the photographer 
must have caught his foot in it on his way out. 
That must have been after the photograph was 
taken. Are you impressed by this, or Mr. John- 
ston's statement that it was the sort of thing a 
woman would throw over her shoulders when she 
had a cold ? With regard to the burning, is it not 
obvious that it was on her shoulder when she fell 
and burnt her skirt on the gas fire ?" 

The skirt worn by Mrs. Wallace was burnt as 
well as the mackintosh. 


Mr. Oliver concluded his remarkable speech, 
portions only of which I have given, as follows: 

"Although I have no need to submit an alter- 
native theory to that of the prosecution, I will do 
so. My suggestion is, then, that when Wallace 
had left the house a watcher called and was admitted 
for the purpose of 'leaving a note' for Wallace. 
The wife would light the parlour fire and, as she 
arose, was struck down. That covers the facts, 
and explains why a fire was alight in the room 
never used, while the woman's sewing and the 
evening paper were on the table in the kitchen, 
showing they had obviously been sitting there with 
a fire. 

*'I would ask you to bear in mind Wallace's 
undoubted affection for his wife, the utter absence 
of motive, his condition of comfort so far as money 
was concerned, his character — a gentle, kindly man 
of refined tastes, who could write that diary and 
congratulate himself on seventeen years of married 
fife. That is the man you are asked to convict of 
murder, and that is the man to whom I am now 
going to ask you to listen. I need not have called 
him. His story has been told over and over again 
to the police. I do not think there ever was a case 
in which so many statements were taken. 

''Remember that in so far as statements were 
made by him on that Friday night, if he is an 
innocent man, consider what condition of mind 
he must have been in, whether quiet, as the police 
say; stunned by shock; or whether sobbing when 


alone, as Mrs. Johnston says. If he has made a 
sHp or two, remember the circumstances." 

Wallace was then called. He made a good 
witness, speaking distinctly and calmly and con- 
vincingly. He said he had been married over 
eighteen years and would describe his relations 
with his wife as "perfect". He corroborated his 
counsel in all particulars, emphatically repudiating 
the bare suggestion of murder. 

Then Mr. Oliver put this direct question to his 
client : 

"I suppose I must put this question to you. I 
think it follows from what you said. Did you lay a 
hand upon your wife that night?" 

"I think," replied Wallace, "in going out of the 
back door, I did what I often enough do; I just 
patted her on the shoulder, and said, 'I won't be 
any longer than I can help.'" 

"I don't mean that," responded counsel. "Did 
you injure her in any way?" 

"Oh, no, certainly not," replied Wallace. 

Wallace confirmed the story told by the John- 
stons, and explained that his wife knew all about 
the message received from Mr. Qualtrough, and 
advised him to go, as it might be worth his while. 
He further stated that he never made a decision 
in a difficulty without first consulting his wife. 

Wallace thus explained the finding of the body: 

"I could see my wife lying there on the floor. 
My first impression was that she was in a fit, but 
that lasted only a fraction of a second. I stooped 


down with a lighted match and saw the blood, 
and saw that she was hit." 

He further accounted for his calmness in these 
words : 

''I was really agitated but was trying to act as 
coolly and calmly as possible, and was smoking 
cigarettes for the sake of something to do. The 
inaction was more than I could stand, and I had 
to do something to avoid breaking down. I did 
break down absolutely." 

Wallace had to undergo a severe cross-examin- 
ation at the hands of Mr. Hemmerde. It transpired 
that a superintendent of the Prudential, a Mr. 
Crewe, lived in the district in which Menlove 
Gardens was situated and was well acquainted 
with the neighbourhood. Wallace, however, did 
not state until quite late in the proceedings that he 
had called there. Mr. Hemmerde examined him 
on this vital point. 

"I put it to you," said counsel, "that you never 
said until to-day you called at Mr. Crewe's. Of 
course you realise now the importance of the point 
that you were quite near your superintendent, who 
knew the district well, and yet you asked everybody 
else instead of going to see him ?" 

At this stage Mr. Oliver intervened to explain 
that Mr. Crewe was out at the time. 

"My learned friend does not see the point," 
responded Mr. Hemmerde. "Wallace did not 
know he was out. He has never said until to-day 
that he ever went to Mr. Crewe's." 


Counsel then turned to the question of the 
amount of Prudential money in the house, and 
suggested that the average was rather ^lo than 
£2^, but to this Wallace would not agree. 

Wallace having stated that he knew his wife had 
no enemies, counsel said: 

"Although you gave the police the names of 
certain people who might have been admitted to 
the house, is there one you have the slightest 
suspicion of being guilty of this murder?" 

"Not one," replied Wallace. 

Then came the question of the telephone message. 

"Presumably," said counsel, "as he rang up 
the City Cafe, he must have expected you to be 

"Possibly," replied Wallace. 

"An admirable opportunity for him to have 
gone round to your house only a few minutes 
away?" insinuated counsel. 

"Yes," agreed the witness. 

"And your wife left there alone?" continued 

"Yes," again responded the witness. 

"Has anyone left a message for you before at 
the City Cafe?" asked counsel, very impressively 
and suggestively. 

"No," replied Wallace, quietly and readily. 

"Has anyone left a message for you of that kind 
before?" persisted counsel. 

"No," replied Wallace. "I have never received 
a message like that before in my life." 


"Of course," continued counsel, "Mr. Qual- 
trough had no possible means of knowing that you 
would receive it that night ?" 

"That is so," agreed Wallace. 

"Then he rang you up," commented counsel, 
"at 7.20, and without knowing you would ever get 
the message or ever go to Menlove Gardens. 
Apparently he was ready waiting for your departure 
the next night ?" 

"It looks like it," readily agreed Wallace. 

"Did it ever occur to you," proceeded counsel 
with emphasis, "that he would have to watch 
both doors, front and back?" 

Wallace hesitated just for a few moments and 
then replied thoughtfully, 

"No, it didn't." 

"Had you any anxiety in leaving your wife that 
night?" asked counsel. 

"No," again came a monosyllabic reply from 
the witness. 

"Not only could he not know that you got his 
message," continued counsel, "and that you would 
go, but he could not have known that you would 
not look up a directory and find there was no such 

"That is so," again agreed Wallace. 

"Of course," explained counsel, "you could 
have found out at once if you had looked up the 
directory ?" 

"I could have done," was the almost indifferent 
reply of the witness. 


"As a matter of fact," summed-up counsel, 
"looking back upon events, doesn't it strike you 
that all these inquiries as to the address were 
absolutely unnecessary?" 

"It didn't strike me at all," was Wallace's 
uncompromising reply. 

But he agreed with counsel directly after that 
he might have rung up Mr. Crewe at his office 
during the day and found out where Menlove 
Gardens East was. 

As this mysterious telephonic message was 
undoubtedly one of the most vital as well as the 
most intriguing factors in the case, counsel was 
evidently loath to leave it. So he continued: 

"On the night of the cafe incident you were 
making so much of the name Qualtrough on the 
way back ?" 

"I talked to a friend of mine about it, a Mr. 
Caird," replied Wallace. " It occurred to me it was 
rather a peculiar name. I simply asked Mr. Caird 
if he had heard of it. It was an entirely new name 
to me." 

"Doesn't the whole thing strike you," said 
counsel, "as very remarkable that he should ring 
you up for business in another district and expect 
you to go there, and yet, without knowing whether 
you had gone there or not, wait outside your 
house for a chance to murder your wife ?" 

"Yes, it is curious," agreed Wallace. 

" It would have been easy for him to give a right 
address?" suggested counsel. 


"He might have done," agreed the witness. 

"A wrong address is essential to a course of 
evidence for an alibi," was counsel's next pregnant 
suggestion. Then after an impressive pause, "Do 
you follow that ?" 

"No, I do not follow you," was the witness's 
quiet reply. 

Mr. Hcmmerde then repeated the question 
slowly and with emphasis, when Wallace indicated 
that he appreciated the point. 

One may fairly term this incident as dramatic. 
There was profound silence in court during these 
fateful interchanges, the atmosphere being tense. 

"You told Police-constable Williams," continued 
Mr. Hemmerde, "that when you could not find 
Menlove Gardens East you became suspicious and 
returned home?" 

"I think so, yes," replied Wallace. 

"Why did you become suspicious?" asked 

" Seeing that I could not find either the man or 
the place," replied Wallace, "I had an idea that 
something was not quite right, and, seeing there 
had been a burglary in our street fairly recently 
and a number of tragedies there possibly eighteen 
months or two years ago, I was rather inclined at 
first to think that something of that sort might 
have been attempted at my own house. But I did 
not become unduly upset." 

Counsel now returned to the receipt of the 
telephone message. 


"Didn't it occur to you," he asked, "that the 
address might have been taken down wrongly on 
the telephone ?" 

"It occurred to me among other possibilities," 
said Wallace. 

You became suspicious?" went on counsel. 
I was uneasy," said Wallace. 
When you reached home," said counsel, "you 
expected to find your wife in, and a light in the 

"That was what one would expect to find," 
agreed Wallace. 

The fatefiil dialogue was continued thus: 

Counsel: Did it make you suspicious when you 
found there was no light in the kitchen ? 

Witness: Yes, I was still uneasy. I could not 
understand why there should be no light in the 
living kitchen. 

Counsel: How were you able to see there was 
no light in the kitchen — through the window of the 
back-kitchen ? 

Witness: Yes. 

Counsel: Didn't Police-constable Williams say 
to you, " When you first came up the yard did you 
notice any light shining through the curtains ?" 

Witness: That is so. 

Counsel: And you said, "The curtains would 
prevent the light from escaping?" 

Witness: Quite correct. 

Counsel : There is a door separating the kitchen 


from the back kitchen ? (Presumably meaning the 

\VrrNESs: Yes. 

Counsel : If that was shut, how would there be 
any light from the kitchen to the back kitchen ? 

Witness: There would not be any, but I do 
not say the door was closed. 

Counsel : But if it had been closed there would 
have been nothing to make you uneasy ? 

Witness: I could not have seen it. 

Counsel: What was there before entering the 
house, with reference to the light in the kitchen, 
that could make you uneasy ? 

Witness : When I tried the back door in the first 
attempt, in walking away from it I looked through 
the back kitchen window and I could see across 
at the angle that there was no light shining in the 

Counsel : But if the door were shut there would 
not have been ? 

Witness: I had no reason to suppose that the 
door was shut. The mere fact that I could not get 
in, coupled with the fact that there was no light 
showing anywhere, naturally made me uneasy. 

The questioning now became very close, 
counsel pressing witness very hard. 

Counsel: If she was sitting there, as you thought, 
making herself comfortable for the evening, would 
you not have expected the door to be shut ? 

Witness: Not necessarily. 

Counsel: Not when she had a cold? 


Witness: Not necessarily. 

Counsel: I am not talking about "not necess- 
arily". I am talking about a woman with a cold 
left nursing it in the kitchen. Wouldn't you expect 
her to have the door shut ? 

Witness: She might possibly. 

Counsel : I put it to you that when you say you 
were made uneasy by seeing there was no light 
in the kitchen, you were not in a position to see 
whether there was or not ? 

Witness: I submit I was. 

Counsel: When were you looking through the 
back kitchen window ? 

Witness: After my first attempt to open the back 
kitchen door. 

Counsel : Before the Johnstons had seen you ? 

Witness: Yes, before I went round to the front 
door the second time. 

Counsel : Is it the fact that when you could not 
get in the first time you looked through the window, 
and that made you uneasy ? 

Witness : I think that was the order of it. 

Counsel: You said just now, in answer to Mr. 
Oliver, " When I could not get in I thought nothing. 
When I knocked at the back door I thought she 
might have gone to the post." 

Witness: It is quite possible. 

Counsel : Then you were not uneasy then ? 

Witness: I was both uneasy and not uneasy, if 
you can follow me. It was a very difficult position, 
and I don't quite know exactly what I did think. 


I thought she might have gone to the post or that 
she might have gone upstairs. I did not know 
what to think. 

Counsel : You were uneasy at the tram junction ? 

Witness: Yes. 

Counsel: You continued uneasy on your way 

Witness: I was not unduly alarmed. 

Counsel: And you swear you were talking to 
nobody outside ? 

Witness: I do. 

Counsel: I am putting it to you that you had 
no reason whatever to be suspicious when you 
returned home, before you knew ? 

Witness : I knew what ? 

Counsel : Exactly what had happened inside the 
house ? 

Witness : How could I know ? 

Counsel: P.C. Williams says you told him your 
wife accompanied you to the back door and waited 
a little way down the entry with you. Did she do 

Witness: No. 

Counsel : Did you say that ? 

Witness: I don't think so. 

Counsel: You heard Williams say he remem- 
bered distinctly that you said that, because he 
wondered at the time if someone had slipped into 
the house when her back was turned. You, 
apparently, are not sure you did not say it ? 

Witness: I am certain I did not, because my 


wife would never come down the back entry with 
me. We always parted at the back door. In my 
opinion, this constable has misunderstood what I 

Counsel : When you found the back door would 
not open, did that increase your uneasiness ? 

Witness: Yes. It made me feel things were not 
quite right. 

Counsel then turned his attention to the con- 
dition of the locks of the front and back doors at 
the time. Wallace explained that they had 
occasionally had trouble with the front door lock 
for quite a long period, although they had never 
had any difficulty in getting into the house. Upon 
this occasion, however, the key would not turn at 
all. Although he thought at the time that the back 
door was locked or bolted, he did not think so now. 
He thought that the lock must have stuck, as it 
had done on many occasions before. 

Counsel took him up at this point. 

Counsel: If the lock had often stuck, what 
made you so uneasy ? 

Witness: It was unusual for me to go to the 
front door and find I could not open it, and then 
go round to the back door and find myself unable 
to open it, or to get an answer to my knocking. 
Naturally I was a bit uneasy. 

Counsel: At the time you thought the back 
door was locked ? 

Witness: I think at the moment I rather had 
that opinion. 


I am presenting this evidence in full, for it was 
of \dtal importance, which counsel evidently con- 
sidered it, as he persisted with it at great length. 

The cross-examination continued: 

Counsel: When did you cease to have that 
opinion ? 

Witness: I don't know. 

Counsel: Let us be quite clear. The result of 
your investigation leaves you now under the 
impression that the front door was locked and the 
back door was stiff? 

Witness: The front door was actually bolted. 

Counsel: And the back door stiff? 

Witness: Yes. 

Counsel : Did you still believe that someone was 
in the house ? 

Witness: No. 

Counsel : Did you ever believe it ? 

Witness: I might have done at the moment. 

Counsel then left that point and turned his 
attention to the weapon. Wallace denied that he 
knew anything about the iron bar, which had been 
referred to as having been in the house just before 
the murder. Its presence in the house had been 
testified to by a Mrs. Draper, who had formerly 
been employed in the house as a kind of char- 
woman. This was in addition to the poker also 
referred to. Wallace also denied that he assumed 
that his wife had been struck with something. He 
also said that she did not have fits, as had been 
stated, but was subject to heart attacks. 


The cross-examination continued: 

Counsel : You have heard there was no evidence 
of breaking in or of anything being taken except 
the -£^ in the cash-box. Did the front bedroom 
strike you as having been genuinely tumbled by 
a thief or disarranged by an assassin ? 

Witness: It did not strike me either way. 

Counsel: Does it strike you as being at all 
probable that man would remember to turn off 
the gas before he went out ? (The gas in the room 
where the body lay had been turned off.) 

Witness : In view of the fact that the mackintosh 
was burned, I should say yes. 

Counsel: Does it not occur to you as strange 
that a total stranger murdering your wife would 
have troubled to turn off the gas ? 

Witness : No, it is not very improbable. I expect 
he would turn out the light, and see he had left 
the fire on and turn it out too. 

Counsel submitted that the theory of a thief was 
contradicted by everything in the house. He then 
turned to the incident of Wallace's questioning 
Mr. Beattie as to the precise time the telephone 
message was received. 

"Why should you regard it," he asked the 
witness, "as an indiscretion to press Mr. Beattie 
about the time of the telephone message?" 

"I felt," replied Wallace, "as a suspected person, 
that it was indiscreet to discuss a case with a man 
who might be called to give evidence." 

"Do you mean to suggest," said counsel, "that 


you ever had the slightest fear of what the poUce 
would find out ?" 

"I had no fear whatever !" emphatically replied 

''Then why should you worry about any indis- 
cretion?" persisted Mr. Hemmerde. 

"Because I realised I was suspected," replied 
Wallace, "and anything I said might be mis- 

"Was a single thing ever said to you that you 
were suspected?" continued counsel. 

"Nothing was said," replied Wallace. "But I 
realised I must have been followed." 

Counsel then again returned to the question of 
the doors. 

"You are convinced," he said, "that the front 
door was bolted when you came back, but the back 
door was only stiff?" 

"That is so," replied Wallace. 

That concluded the cross-examination of Wallace. 
His own counsel, Mr. Oliver, then put the following 
curious question to him: 

"Was it your habit to play the vioUn naked in 
a mackintosh ?" 

"No," repHed Wallace. 

He then returned to the dock, having been in 
the witness-box for three hours. 

There was clearly a connection between this last 
question of Mr. Oliver's and the theory of the 
prosecution that the prisoner had murdered his 
wife while naked except for the mackintosh. 


One might almost say, of course, there was a 
difference between the medical experts, for there 
usually is. The defence called Professor J. H. 
Dible, Professor of Pathology at Liverpool Univer- 
sity, who disagreed with the expert evidence for the 
prosecution as to the time of the murder as indicated 
by the post-mortem condition of rigor mortis. 
Whereupon the Judge commented: 

"There seems to be a great difference of opinion 
among the experts in this case." 

To which Professor Dible replied: 

"It is a notoriously difficult subject." 

It is clearly not a fixed science. This difference 
of opinion on the part of the defence would tend 
to make it improbable, if not impossible, for the 
prisoner to have committed the murder. The 
testimony on both sides, pro and con, was equally 
qualified and confident. Who is to decide when 
doctors disagree ? In this instance the jury, of 
course, and they did decide. 

Another impression of Professor Dible was that 
the assailant must have become spattered with 
blood. The testimony on the other side, however, 
was that he need not have been much bloodstained 
if he were wearing the mackintosh — only a little 
on the lower portions of the legs. 

Mr. Oliver dealt with the evidence of the police- 
constable who said that he passed Wallace on the 
afternoon of the murder and that he noticed he 
looked pale and agitated. Counsel said that he 
was prepared to call many people who would 


testify that they saw Wallace on that day and that 
he was quite normal. The Judge, however, 
intimated that Mr. Oliver need not do that, and 
that it must not be assumed that a man's demeanour 
might indicate that he was going to commit a 
crime. That was tantamount to a direction to the 
jury to ignore this evidence. 

After several witnesses had been called for the 
defence, whose evidence tended to contradict that 
of the prosecution as to the time Mrs. Wallace was 
last seen, Mr. Oliver made his final appeal. And 
a very impassioned one it was, although it seems a 
pity that he should again have attacked the police. 
He reproached them for not calling certain evidence 
in these words: "The police had that evidence 
but they did not call it. How many other state- 
ments have they got which might throw light on 
the matter?" He continued: "What is the case 
for the police ? It has varied from day to day. 
At the police-court it was Wallace in a mackintosh 
who killed his wife. No suggestion then that he 
was naked. Professor M'Fall has sought to impress 
us with the suggestion that there were indubitable 
stains of blood on the mackintosh, showing how 
the blood had squirted, but if there is one word of 
truth in that why was it left till the trial ? Not a 
word of such a suggestion was made at the police- 
court, and I ask you to reject the suggestion." 

Counsel then referred to Wallace's attitude in 
the witness-box, which had been remarkably calm 
and collected. 


"I suppose," said Mr. Oliver, "it will be said 
by the Recorder, 'What a cruel man!' On the 
other hand, if he had been agitated the Recorder 
no doubt would have said, ' Do you think that was 
the demeanour of an innocent man ? ' Is there no 
such thing as the calmness of innocence ? Did 
you notice the way Wallace answered questions ? 
Did you hear him fence once or prevaricate ? Did 
you hear the frankness of his admissions?" 

Mr. Oliver made this effective conclusion: 

"The burden of proof in this case lies upon the 
Crown. Here we have a case of a crime without 
a motive, a man against whose character there is 
no word to be said, a man whose affection for his 
wife cannot be doubted, a man charged with the 
murder of the woman who was his only companion. 
The Romans had a maxim, which is as true to-day 
as it was in the early days, that 'no one ever 
suddenly became the basest of men'. How can 
you conceive of a man with such antecedents as 
those of the prisoner doing this thing ? It is not 
enough for you to think it is possible that he did it— 
not nearly enough." 

Mr. Hemmerde followed with his final speech, 
in which he again outlined the story for the pro- 
secution, reiterating and emphasizing his various 
points. Dealing with the telephone call he said: 

" We have a man trying to ring up Wallace, who 
had left his house at a time that might perfectly 
well have brought him straight to the call-box from 


which the message was sent. It was a box that 
Wallace had used. Whoever sent the message went 
to a box where tliere was no light except a reflected, 
indirect light, and where anybody could perfectly 
well telephone without drawing attention. Nobody 
but Wallace knew that Wallace was going to be at 
the cafe — on Wallace's own story. The voice on 
the telephone was confident and strong and inclined 
to be gruff. If a person was imitating another 
person's voice you might imagine he would do so 
in a voice that had all those characteristics. If the 
man had had important business and wanted to 
speak to a man he did not know, would he not have 
arranged to ring up later, on finding Wallace was 
not at the cafe, instead of leaving the message to 
someone else ? According to the story for the 
defence, Qualtrough must have taken all his steps 
on the assumption that the message got home to 
the man he wanted to move." 

Counsel then dealt with Wallace's efforts to find 
Menlove Gardens East: 

"Do you think a man who was really searching 
for that address," he said, "would have asked all 
the questions and gone finally to a newsagent's 
after being told by the police there was no such 
address ? When you hear the suggestion that the 
murder might have been committed a considerable 
time after Wallace left, you have to bear in mind 
that the unknown man had chosen an address 
so little distant away that Wallace might easily 
have been back by eight o'clock. Do you think 


for a moment that the man would have run 
that risk ? 

"Having found that there was no such address, 
why should Wallace declare that he became 
suspicious ? It was quite possible for a mistake to 
have been made over the telephone." 

Counsel then dealt with the actual scene of the 
murder : 

"The defence have suggested," he said, "that 
the room in which Mrs. Wallace was found was 
practically never used except when visitors came, 
but actually it was used regularly whenever Mr. 
and Mrs. Wallace had music. Supposing Wallace 
did not tell his wife he was going out on the night 
in question and that she prepared for a musical 
evening — the piano was open and music on it — 
and that she was struck down in that room, her 
dress might have been burnt. 

"I repudiate absolutely the suggestion that the 
police have been coaching witnesses or suppressing 
evidence. On all points there is ample evidence 
to support the theory of the prosecution that the 
man in the telephone-box was the prisoner, and 
that Mrs. Wallace was last seen round about 6.30. 
As regards the time of death, there was ample time 
for Wallace to do everything. Never mind about 
the clot of blood and other fine points. The 
question is: Can you believe anyone would think 
of committing such a crime for the small gains in 
an insurance agent's house ? Are you satisfied 
that prisoner's attitude was that of an innocent 


man ? You can only convict the prisoner if you 
are satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that he is 
guihy. If you do not think he is guilty, it will be 
your duty, of course, to acquit him, and I hope 
that nothing that has fallen from me has led you 
to suppose anything to the contrary." 

One must admit that this speech was a manifestly 
fair one, and that Mr. Hemmerde did not strain 
the case against the prisoner. 

Then came Mr. Justice Wright's summing-up, 
which occupied about an hour. As this is in- 
variably a vital stage of a trial for murder, I propose 
to give the Judge's comments to the jury on this 
perplexing case at length. In solemn and well- 
balanced tones, Mr. Justice Wright summed up 
the case as follows: 

"I need not warn you," he began, "to approach 
the case without any preconceived notions. Your 
business is to listen to the evidence and to consider 
that and nothing else. This murder, I imagine, 
must be almost unexampled in the annals of crime. 
It was committed some time on the evening of 
January 20th, in a house in a populous neighbour- 
hood, and was so devised and arranged that not a 
trace, as far as I can see, remained which would 
point to anyone as the murderer. 

"All the evidence is circumstantial, and a man 
cannot be convicted of any crime, least of all that 
of murder, merely on probabiHties, unless they are 
so strong as to amount to a reasonable certainty. 
The question here is not 'Who did this murder?' 


but ' Did the prisoner do it ? ' or rather, has it been 
proved to your reasonable satisfaction and beyond 
all reasonable doubt that the prisoner did it ? 

"The question of motive can be put on one side 
as far as the accused is concerned. The evidence 
is that to all appearances Wallace and his wife 
were living together in happiness and amity and 
there was no pecuniary inducement that one can 
see for the accused to have desired the death of 
his wife. Is there any reasonable presumption that 
it was the accused who telephoned the message to 
the chess club ? On that point also the evidence 
is purely circumstantial." 

His lordship then dealt with the conversation 
between Wallace and Mr. Beattie as to the time 
of the telephone message : 

"It is said," remarked the Judge, "that that was 
the mark of an uneasy conscience, and that point 
has been somewhat stressed. It may be, on the 
other hand, if the prisoner was already feeling 
himself to be the object of suspicion, he might 
perfectly well have made these inquiries simply to 
impress upon Mr. Beattie the importance of being 
accurate if any question should arise. It would, 
one would imagine, be very dangerous to draw any 
inference seriously adverse to the prisoner from 
that conversation. 

"You have heard some description of the crime 
so far as it can be reconstructed. It was a crime 
which apparently involved — ^because here we are 
in the range of speculation — this woman going into 


the sitting-room and no doubt turning on the Hght 
and Hghting the stove. No doubt the couple 
generally lived in the kitchen, yet on occasion they 
went into the sitting-room when they wanted to 
have some music, and on occasion when visitors 
came. Mrs. Wallace would take them into the 
sitting-room and light the fire. There are two 
theories — at least there were once — as to how she 
was struck. One of them was that she was sitting 
in the armchair by the fireplace and was struck 
down with a blow, and then, when she fell on the 
floor, the remaining ten blows were administered. 
That would mean that the assailant came to her 
and attacked her in front, and, of course, on that 
view, it is very difficult to believe that the assailant 
was the husband wearing the mackintosh. If he 
was going out there and then, one asks why should 
he wear a mackintosh, and why should she light 
a fire ? If she lighted a fire under the impression 
that he was not going out, but that they were going 
to have some music, why should he come in with 
a mackintosh on ? 

"It does appear now that the more probable 
reconstruction of the tragedy is that she was struck 
down when stooping over the fire, or it may be 
just when she had lighted it, and this is said for 
two reasons — the burning of the skirt and the 
burning of the mackintosh. Mrs. Johnston, as soon 
as she saw the mackintosh, said Mrs. Wallace 
must have thrown it over her shoulders. Whether 
she had any reason for thinking that is obscure. 


The prisoner, so far as I can follow, never drew 
Mrs. Johnston's attention to the fact that the 
mackintosh was his, but he mentioned it to others, 
including Williams and Moore, and thought there 
was some doubt as to whether or not it was his. 
One has to be careful not to over emphasise these 
small difficulties in contradiction in considering the 
position of this man whether he is innocent or 
guilty. He had been through a great deal that 
night, and when reference is made to small dis- 
crepancies in his statement I cannot help thinking 
that it is wonderful his statements are so lucid and 
apparently consistent as they haw > been. 

"Whoever did the murder — the evidence seems 
conclusive — must have been seriously splashed with 
blood. It was a very bad wound and one of the 
arteries in the forehead had been severed, and it 
is quite obvious from the picture, and the photo- 
graph that there must have been splashes of blood 
on the murderer. How, in the narie of Providence, 
did the murderer go without leaving a trace 
behind ? What time had the prisoner if he was 
the murderer ? That is a most yital point in the 
case. If you think, on the evidenc . as to times, that 
the times are so short, either to make it impossible 
for the prisoner to have done this act or to make it 
very improbable, that would be a very strong 
element in your conclusion on the real question of 
the case. It is for the prosecution to prove the facts 
which are only consistent according to reasonable 
methods of judgment to prove the guilt of the prisoner. 


"The times given in evidence are not very 
precise, although there is one time which I think 
precise, and that is the time the prisoner boarded 
the tram at Lodge Lane. The fact that you can 
fix that time enables you to fix with a certain 
amount of certainty when he must have left the 

'*I must say I do not agree with any attacks 
made upon the police in connection with the conduct 
of this case. I think they have done their work 
\vdth great enthusiasm and ability, but I cannot 
help thinking they were guilty of an error of 
judgment in n. c calling the two witnesses, Jones 
and Wildman, in the conduct of the prosecution. 
(This was in reference to the time Mrs. Wallace 
was last seen alive.) It is true that Jones's time 
may have been a little uncertain; and Wildman, 
although he h^d mentioned the matter to his 
mother, had already associated it — though I don't 
think it affectec5f the matter — ^with the solicitor for 
the defence. But they are witnesses in a case of 
this sort where the ascertainment of the time is 
so important. They are witnesses who, I think, 
should have be^ called by the prosecution. The 
case of the prosecution, as it stands, depends 
entirely upon the evidence of Close. 

"You may think the medical evidence does not 
afford you much guidance or assistance as to when 
the woman met her death. The evidence leads to 
conflicting views. You may think that it does not 
do much to enable you to say when the woman was 


killed. It may be that the evidence is consistent. 
The criminal got into the house, committed the 
murder and went away. So far as weapons were 
concerned, the prosecution had called Mrs. Draper, 
who said that two things were missing — an iron bar 
and a poker. If the prisoner committed the murder, 
he could not have used both those weapons, but 
the question was, how did he get rid of them ? One 
would have thought the tram conductor on the 
car in which the prisoner travelled must have 
noticed if he were carrying an iron bar or a poker, 
but he did not seem to have seen anything of the 

"Referring to what happened at the house, the 
prosecution said that just as the prisoner had 
faked the telephone message and sought to 
fake an alibi, so he faked the discovery of the 
crime, and the prosecution relied for that on his 
own story. You have to consider whether that 
helped them to form a basis of decision. If the 
prisoner had been wandering about for an hour 
and a half seeking someone, and then found the 
doors of his house did not open as readily as he 
expected, it might well be he would lose his head 
to some extent, and not act with the deliberation 
and wisdom which criminals are always expected 
to act when their proceedings are canvassed. 

"Wallace told Police-constable Williams that 
the front door was bolted. Williams said he did 
not hear any bolt drawn, but that was about all 
he could say. Mrs. Johnston did not notice, one 


way or the other. Prisoner said he at first thought 
there was someone in the house, but that was only 
a conjecture, and he now thought he was wrong. 
If the door was boked, the question of the lock was 
immaterial. On the other hand, if the lock was 
there and the door was unbolted, then he ought to 
have opened it. You will have to consider whether 
you attach any importance to the fact that he 
appeared to fail to work a somewhat defective 
lock though the defect might have been of old 

" Of course if Wallace was in a state of mental 
disturbance, having been on a wild goose chase 
and being rather worried because he could not 
get in at once, that might account for some diffi- 
culty. On the other hand, the prosecution said, 
'Nothing of the sort. He knew exactly what he 
was doing and he was feigning a difficulty that did 
not exist'. 

"The question you have to determine is not 
' Who can have done this ? ' Human nature is 
very strange. You may have a man masquerading 
as Qualtrough and sending the bogus messages, and 
then, if he did not actually see the prisoner leave 
the house he might knock at the door, and if Mrs. 
Wallace had been told the prisoner was seeking 
an interview with Qualtrough, he might be 
admitted. If he were admitted he would soon find 
out that the prisoner was not in the house. On the 
other hand, if he had found he was in the house 
he could go away. It is difficult to say what motive 


there could have been for such a thing. It is difficult 
to think there can be such a person to devise all 
these things, but, then again, there is the difficulty 
of motive as far as the prisoner is concerned. It is 
difficult to see how the man can have got away 
leaving no trace, but there are equal difficulties 
connected with the prisoner. 

"However you regard the matter, the whole 
crime is so skilfully devised and so skilfully executed, 
and there is such an absence of a trace of anything 
to incriminate anybody as to make it very difficult 
to say — it is a matter entirely for you — that it can 
be brought home to anybody in particular. Can 
you say it is absolutely impossible that there was 
an unknown murderer who has covered up his 
traces ? But putting that aside as not being the 
real question, can you say, — ^taking the evidence 
as a whole and bearing in mind the strength of 
the case put forward by the police and by 
the prosecution — ^that you are satisfied beyond 
reasonable doubt that it was the hand of the 
prisoner and no other hand that murdered this 
woman ? 

" If you are not satisfied, whatever your feelings 
may be, whatever your surmise or suspicion or 
prejudice may be, if it is not established to your 
reasonable satisfaction as a matter of legal evidence 
and legal proof, then it is your duty to find the 
prisoner not guilty. Of course, if you are so satisfied, 
it is equally your duty to find him guilty, but you 
have to be satisfied by legal evidence in this court 


and by legal proof. Whatever you may think 
generally, that is the acid test which you must 
apply in coming to your verdict." 

Thus ended his lordship's most interesting 
summing-up, which was listened to by everybody 
in court with rapt attention. Then came the 
most trydng and psychological period of a trial for 
murder, namely, the retirement of the jury for the 
consideration of their verdict. Between that 
moment and that of their return is a painful time 
for everyone concerned, most of all, one would 
imagine, for the prisoner at the bar. But Wallace 
did not seem to have lost his strangely consistent 
imperturbability when, after the absence from the 
court of an hour, during which time the jury were 
absorbed in the task of deciding his fate, as to 
whether he should live or die, he reappeared in 
the dock to hear his fate. That fate did not seem 
in doubt to all those who regarded the faces of the 
jurymen as they filed back to their places: They 
were very grave, as they invariably are when their 
decision is adverse to the prisoner. 

In reply to the usual question, the foreman 
pronounce the verdict of " Guilty". It was received 
by a veritable gasp in court, clearly proving that it 
was unexpected by the majority of those present. 
The prisoner, however, did not budge nor blench, 
and when asked if he had anything to say why 
sentence of death should not be passed, quietly 
replied, "I am not guilty. I don't want to say 
anything else". Then the Judge, assuming the 


black cap and in solemn tones, in which there 
might be traced a slight quaver, observed: 

"William Herbert Wallace, the jury, after a very 
careful hearing, have found you guilty of the 
murder of your wife. For the crime of murder, by 
the law of this country, there is only one sentence, 
and that sentence I now pass upon you." 

By this time Canon Dwelly, the High Sheriff's 
chaplain, had moved along the bench and stood 
beside the Judge. Then followed the dread words 
of the death sentence, finishing with " May the 
Lord have mercy on your soul." To which the 
chaplain responded with "Amen." 

During this ordeal Wallace stood with his hands 
clasped behind him, looking steadfastly at the Judge 
as sentence was pronounced. A most absorbing 
"situation". Not once, not even at this vital and 
terrible moment in his prolonged ordeal, did that 
inexplicable and masterful composure desert the 
prisoner. No more baffling human enigma ever 
stood in the dock. When the warders who stood 
around him gently tapped him on the shoulder, 
indicating that the tribunal was ended and that 
he should now quit the dock, he turned and silently 
walked down the stairs, disappearing from view 
and leaving the whole court at gaze and lost in 
wonder and amazement, not untinged with pity. 

Thus ended this notable trial, one of the most 
notable, it is safe to say, ever heard in this country, 
particularly in view of the remarkable sequel 
which followed shortly after. 


It now falls to be considered as to why the jury, 
in face of the summing-up of the Judge, which, as 
can be plainly seen, was most favourable towards 
the prisoner, brought in their adverse verdict after 
only one hour's consideration. The case simply 
teemed with difficulties for them. They did not 
give the prisoner the benefit of any of the doubts 
with which the case was beset and in spite of the 
Judge's clear implication that they should do so. 
This is the more remarkable as, in nine cases out 
of ten, the Judge's summing-up is invariably the 
basis of a jury's verdict. That is to say, a jury is 
invariably much influenced and guided in their 
decision by what the Judge says in his final summing- 
up. I have always found that it is very difficult 
to say definitely how a case of the kind is going 
until the Judge sums up. Then you may be pretty 

You cannot realise the influence a Judge has 
on a jury by merely reading a report of his speech. 
Mere words do not convey a full and complete 
impression of the Judge's attitude. To obtain this 
you must be in court and observe his lordship's 
gestures, emphases, facial play, intonation of 
voice, and so on. However impartial a Judge 
may be — and our Judges, I need scarcely point 
out, are always manifestly and studiously impartial 
— he cannot altogether eliminate his own personal 
opinion. After all, he is only human. Nothing 
could have been fairer than Mr. Justice Wright's 
summing-up in this case, but still you could clearly 


perceive, by reading between the lines, as it were, 
that he was not himself satisfied that the prosecution 
had made out their case. It will be noticed that, 
in passing sentence, he made no observation as to 
whether he approved of the sentence or not, which 
a Judge sometimes does. Clear indication of his 
uncertainty of mind in the matter. 

Why, then, did the jury convict ? What influences 
operated as factors to convince them that the 
prisoner was guilty ? I think there were several. 
One of them, I venture to believe, was the rather 
severe and manifestly unfair criticism of the police 
by counsel for the defence. Even the Judge took 
up the cudgels in their defence. This kind of 
captious complaining often defeats its own object. 
It convinced the jury that the police case was so 
strong that the defence were afraid of it. Hence 
the abuse. The defence of the police by the Judge 
also confirmed them in this supposition. Another 
factor was, in my opinion, the cross-examination of 
Wallace by Mr. Hemmerde. It was most telling 
and obviously made a deep impression on the 
minds of the jury, which, not even the wise and 
cautious words of the Judge could eradicate. I 
believe also that the strangely unassailable com- 
posure of the prisoner made an unfavourable 
impression upon them. Lastly, the jury were faced 
with this challenging problem: If Wallace did 
not commit the murder, who did ? And their 
minds failed to grasp the idea that anybody else 
could have committed it. So they adopted the 


only alternative that seemed available to them. 
The Judge, it will be observed, practically told 
them that so mysterious was the crime that the 
evidence was insufficient to point to anybody in 
particular as the culprit. However, they evidendy 
thought it was, and acted accordingly. 

We have heard from time to time a good deal 
about a possible "perfect murder". Here, without 
a doubt, we have it. This case easily beats any 
work of fiction ever turned out by the most skilful 
writer of detective stories. We have the no mean 
testimony of the Judge on the point. I will repeat 
it: ''This murder, I imagine, must be almost 
unexampled in the annals of crime ... so 
devised and arranged that not a trace, as far as 
I can see, remains which points to anyone as the 
murderer ^\ One would have thought that these 
weighty words, emanating from the occupant of 
the bench, would have prevented the jury returning 
a confident and unanimous verdict of guilty. 
Clearly they thought they knew better than his 

Argue as you may about this case, you cannot 
come to any definite conclusion as to who the 
author of the crime might be or what the motive. 
The possibilities are very few. Let us consider 
them. I have already referred to the theory of a 
burglar, but it will bear a little further looking 
into. As has already been pointed out, there were 
no marks of a forcible entry having been made. 
There was no indication of how the supposed 


burglar entered the place, or, as the Judge pointed 
out, of the manner of his retreat. His motive, of 
course, would be theft. He took, we will say, the 
money from the cash-box — ^4 — ^but left the notes 
in the room upstairs. A very singular thing for a 
burglar to do. He certainly would not fail to have 
gone upstairs. Nothing else was missing. 

Now let us regard the burglary, or supposed 
burglary, in relation to the murder. The theory 
is that the burglar encountered Mrs. Wallace, and 
struck her down in order that he might make his 
get-away. The first blow that was struck was a 
very severe one, and not only rendered the victim 
unconscious but practically killed her. Since this 
would have enabled the burglar to get away 
without interference, why did he remain behind 
and occupy precious moments in delivering the 
other quite unnecessary ten blows ? It will thus 
be seen that this also was a very singular thing for 
a burglar to do. Also, and presuming that the 
burglar was the individual who sent the telephone 
message, he must have known sufficient of Wallace's 
home affairs to be aware that, although he had 
removed Wallace there was still Mrs. Wallace in 
the house and that he would have to deal with her. 
Is it probable that a burglar, under such circum- 
stances, would have gone into the house and com- 
mitted such a desperate deed for such a small 
sum of money as was likely to be found there ? In 
the highest degree improbable. It is a rare thing 
nowadays for burglars to commit murder, or even 


acts of violence short of murder, rather do they 
avoid such a thing. It is true that we still have 
what are technically known as "shooting burglars" 
— like the late Steinie Morrison — ^but they are 
rather scarce, and would certainly not "operate" 
in such houses as those where Wallace lived. 

Thus the theory or possibility of a burglar 
having committed the murder must be dismissed 
from our consideration, as the police also obviously 
dismissed it from their consideration quite early in 
their investigations. 

Let us now consider the vital question of motive, 
which the prosecution were chided for not having 
put forward. It need scarcely be pointed out, 
since the fact is now common knowledge, that the 
prosecution are not called upon to provide a motive. 
If they can, by means of proven facts, make the 
guilt of the accused appear convincingly obvious, 
they have discharged their legal duty. They have, 
in fact, fulfilled their mission in merely presenting 
these facts. They are in no way legally concerned 
with motive. Of course, if they can also show 
what the motive was it tends to strengthen their 
case. But it does not necessarily weaken it if they 
do not do so. So that it is no fault of the police 
that they did not insist upon a motive. 

Supposing for the moment that the case for the 
prosecution were true, what motive could Wallace 
have had for the commission of such a deed ? It 
is admittedly difficult to find one, and as we know, 
the police failed to find one. It could not have 


been a financial motive, for Wallace was quite 
comfortably off. He would gain nothing by the 
death of his wife, and it is to be presumed that she 
was not insured for any considerable sum since no 
mention was made of it by either side during the 
run of the case. So we must rule out financial 
motive from the case, with the exception of the 
improbable one of the burglar. 

There was, however, a fugitive kind of mention 
of "another woman". We know that from time 
to time murders have been committed for the 
possession, the unfettered possession, of a much 
desired woman. It has been rather melodramatic- 
ally called the "eternal triangle", that is to say 
two women and one man, or two men and one 
woman, and one has to be "removed". I repeat 
such cases have been known, but I have never 
heard of a case of the kind where some evidence 
was not forthcoming as to the existence of the other 
woman. In this case there is not the shadow of a 
clue as to the existence of any other woman. So 
we must dismiss that also from our consideration. 

What other possible motives are there ? Well, 
the one which leaps most readily to the mind is 
that of revenge. Was the murder committed by 
someone who had a spite against either Wallace 
or his wife ? And in this connection we must take 
this further point into consideration: Was the 
murder committed by a woman ? It may be 
doubted whether a woman could be capable of 
inflicting such very severe injuries, which would 


appear to be the result of the display of more 
strength than is usually possessed by women. But 
this I think, like many other familiar ideas concern- 
ing the female sex, is a fallacy. A woman, under 
the influence of strong passion, and with such a 
weapon as was available and was clearly used, was 
capable of inflicting very severe injuries, quite as 
severe as those which battered out the life of Mrs. 

In this connection it was stated, more than once 
if my memory is not at fault, that Mrs. Wallace 
"had not an enemy in the world". This is such a 
familiar phrase as to be made use of glibly and 
without much thought. It requires only a little 
reflection to appreciate how inaccurate this must 
be. Just think of it. A human being with not a 
single enemy in the world ! I doubt if such a thing 
could be said of the angels in heaven. It must be 
obvious that there can be very few human beings 
without enemies, open and avowed, or secret and 
subtle. Such loose and delusive ideas as these 
gradually creep into our everyday conversation. 
They have very little evidential value. 

No doubt both Mr. and Mrs. Wallace were well 
known and much respected in the neighbourhood 
where they lived. They were and had been for a 
long time on very amicable relations with one 
another. They had many genuine friends, but 
that neither had any enemies is rather too much 
to suppose. So the factor of revenge must be taken 
into consideration. But as to who bore this feeling 


of animosity against either or both of them, and 
what was the cause of the enmity, one is unable, 
in the entire absence of any clue, to even hint at. 
But that "an enemy hath done this", seems to be 
well to the fore among the probabilities. 


In due course an appeal was lodged on behalf of 
Wallace, who, in the meantime, was being held 
for execution. The appeal was duly heard at the 
High Courts in London on May 1 8th, and occupied 
two days. There were three judges: Mr. Justice 
Branson, Lord Hewart (Lord Chief Justice of 
England), and Mr. Justice Hawke. The counsel 
in the appeal were the same as at the trial. 

In the meantime the result of the trial had 
raised much controversy, the verdict being very 
unpopular, especially in the neighbourhood of 
Liverpool. So strong was the feeling against the 
verdict in fact that intercessory prayers were 
offered up on the prisoner's behalf in Liverpool 
Cathedral. Commenting on this unusual pro- 
ceeding, the Bishop of Liverpool said: "I agree 
with the criticism that the prayers were unusual. 
So also were the circumstances. I think the 
confidence of a large section of the public, in the 
administration of justice through juries, has been 
shaken by this case, and it is exceedingly important 
that it should be restored. We expressed no opinion 
in the prayers as to whether Wallace was actually 


guilty, but we met a feeling that the verdict was 
not justified by the evidence given at the trial. 
That is why I allowed the prayers. In my view, 
it is the duty of the Church to meet and turn 
into prayer public anxiety of this kind. I should 
hope that the Church will always be alive to 
its duty of watching public events and giving, 
without prejudice, the opportunity for public 

Opinions will doubtless differ as to the wisdom 
or justification for such ecclesiastical intercession. 
But it was one of the many remarkable incidents 
which attended a very remarkable case. 

If it were possible for the dramatic character- 
istics of the trial at Liverpool to be exceeded it 
occurred at the appeal at the High Courts in 
London. It was intensely dramatic. Both counsel 
pressed their respective points with sincerity, Mr. 
Oliver, perhaps, being rather more emphatic and 
insistent than his learned friend, Mr. Hemmerde. 
In the dock stood a tall, grey-haired, pale-faced 
man, wearing gold-rimmed spectacles. It was 
Wallace, upon whose face were clearly depicted 
the shattering effects of the ordeal he was passing 
through. For some moments he stood with his 
hands clasped behind his back, when he was told 
by the Lord Chief Justice that he might sit down. 
He then relapsed wearily into a chair, leaned 
forward and listened attentively to the arguments 
of counsel. He was, of course, accompanied by 


Mr. Hemmerde put the case for the Crown in a 
virile speech which occupied four hours to dehver. 
This, of course, followed the speech of Mr. Oliver 
on behalf of the appeal, the grounds of which were 
that evidence did not justify the verdict. "The 
main ground," said Mr. Oliver, "is this: That a 
man who may well be quite innocent has been 
convicted of murder and sentenced to death." 
He further argued that the case should have been 
withdrawn from the jury at the Liverpool Assizes. 
He pointed out that there was no admission of any 
sort and no material to assist the prosecution 
obtained from the prisoner in the witness-box. 
Counsel emphasised the facts of the perfectly 
affectionate relations which existed between Wallace 
and his wife and insisted that there was no sem- 
blance of a motive for the murder so far as his 
client was concerned. 

Mr. Oliver returned to his attack upon the police, 
reiterating the charges against them which he had 
made in the lower court. These strictures drew 
from Mr. Justice Branson the observation: "I was 
wondering whether we were trying this case or the 
Liverpool police". In this connection Mr. Hem- 
merde said: 

"If this case was pressed, I pressed it, and I take 
full responsibility for everything that was done in 
the case. The police had nothing to do with the 
conduct of the case. We heard expressions in one 
speech at the trial that the police had goaded a 
milk-boy to put his time up, that they had coached 


witnesses, that they had brought them into Une 
and that they had suppressed evidence. I abso- 
lutely refused in my speech to the jury to be taken 
off what was really the conduct of the case by those 
attacks, and I want to say here and now that, so 
far as the police are concerned, I took charge of 
the case at least a week before." Counsel also 
pointed out this relevant fact: "It was not a City 
of Liverpool jury, but a jury of the County of 
Lancashire, deliberately chosen at the request of 
my learned friend." 

Not the least interesting features of the hearing 
were the searching questions put to counsel by the 
Judges. For instance, Mr. Justice Branson asked 
Mr. Hemmerde: 

''Assuming the murder was not committed by 
the appellant, what evidence is there that the 
telephone call was put through by him?" There 
was of course no such evidence. At most it was 
an inference. There was nobody who was prepared 
to swear that the voice was that of Wallace. On 
the contrary, the person who received the message, 
Mr. Beattie, was quite confident that the voice 
was not that of Wallace. 

Mr. Hemmerde advanced the following argu- 
ments : 

"It is common ground," he said, "that the 
person who murdered this unfortunate woman was 
either the person who sent that message or the 
person who has been convicted of the murder, 
because common sense eliminates other possi- 


bilities. It is clear that the murderer, whoever he 
was, went upstairs and made some show of 
disturbance in the front room." 

Then counsel declared that Wallace had ample 
time in which to clean himself after the murder. 

"There is the question of the time taken for 
dressing," remarked Lord Hewart. "Would not 
appellant have to take off his clothes as well as put 
them on again?" 

"Not as I visualise it," replied counsel. 

"At any rate your theory," said Mr. Justice 
Hawke, "involves that the appellant would have 
. to put on his clothes ? " 

" I shall not shirk any issue," said Mr. Hemmerde. 
"I pointed out at the beginning that this case was 
an extremely difficult one." 

Counsel went on to argue that not only was 
there a case upon which the jury might convict, 
but an extremely strong case. Otherwise, it would 
mean that if a man were clever enough to telephone 
from a dark spot when no one was about and do a 
thing like this, he would be absolutely safe, because 
whatever he did afterwards was merely arguing 
back to the fact that he was in the telephone-box." 

It was clear that this telephone message exercised 
the minds of the Judges very much, and that they 
were not at all satisfied about it. 

Mr. Hemmerde had with him an iron bar 
similar to that which was missing and which it was 
contended might have been the weapon employed. 
He drew an impressive verbal picture of the 


sitting-room, with the stage set, as it were, for a 
musical evening, with music on the piano and the 
gas fire ht. In this description Wallace seemed 
very much interested. He leaned forward and 
closely followed every word of counsel, and also 
seemed almost fascinated by the appearance of the 
iron bar, which counsel waved about as he spoke. 

Mr. Hemmerde reiterated his argument as to 
the murderer having carefully prepared for the 
deed, that he was naked with the exception of the 
mackintosh, and that he had plenty of time in which 
to have removed the little blood which might have 
got on to his feet. Wallace, he pointed out, had not 
been arrested until February. This drew from Mr. 
Oliver the observation that Wallace had been care- 
fully searched for traces of blood on the same night. 

"I do not think I am saying anything wrong," 
responded Mr. Hemmerde. "As a matter of fact 
he was not undressed that night, was he ?" 

"He was carefully searched," replied Mr. Oliver. 

"I suggest that he came downstairs," continued 
Mr. Hemmerde, "and surprised his wife. The 
story is far more probable than that someone got 
into the house on some pretence that night and, 
having got in, killed this unfortunate woman." 

Next counsel dwelt upon the inaccuracies con- 
tained in Wallace's statements, when Mr. Justice 
Branson observed: 

"Assume that he was innocent and that he left 
his wife and went off on this wild-goose chase to 
Menlove Gardens East, and he came back and 


was shocked to find that his wife had been murdered 
in his absence, is it to be wondered at that he should 
not be certain whether his wife came with him to 
the back door before he left or whether she came 
down the entry." "I should think every detail," 
said counsel, "would be quite clear in his mind, 
bearing in mind the fact that it was the night his 
wife had been murdered." 

Mr. Hemmerde also dwelt at length upon the 
prisoner's answers and demeanour generally to- 
wards the Johnstons, arguing that he did not 
exhibit any particular alarm. He also touched 
upon the incident of the ownership of the mack- 
intosh, how the prisoner hesitated about admitting 
that it was his when he must have known that it 
belonged to him, which drew from Mr. Justice 
Hawke the observation: 

" If they kept on asking you ' Is this your coat ? ' 
might you not say, ' If there is a patch it is mine ? ' " 

Then Lord Hewart asked: 

"Do you mean that the appellant repudiated 
having said that the mackintosh was his ?" 

"That is what the inspector suggested," replied 
Mr. Hemmerde. 

To which Lord Hewart replied: 


"And I am inclined to associate myself with it," 
said Mr. Hemmerde. 

Said Mr. Justice Branson : 

"It appears that if he had already admitted that 
the mackintosh was his, he was only checking it 



by saying that if it had two patches in it it was his. 
The two patches were there." 

"Suppose the two patches had been burned," 
repHed Mr. Hemmerde, "much of it had been 

Mr. Hemmerde then observed that there was an 
extraordinary reluctance to-day on the part of 
juries to convict, but, with all consideration of the 
facts, they had done so here. 

With that remark Mr. Hemmerde sat down. 

Mr. Oliver added a few words more: 

"Putting the case as it seems to me fairly," he 
said, "grappling with everything, there remain 
here a number of suspicious circumstances, but 
nothing in the nature of proof" 

Which seems rather a good and succinct summary 
of this very strange case. 

Thus the case had been argued pro and con, and 
there was nothing more but to await the decision 
of the Judges. A profound hush fell upon the 
assembly. You might have heard the proverbial 
pin fall. What would the Judges do was the 
unspoken question of all present. Was the prisoner 
to live or die ? All eyes were directed towards the 
three dignified and scarlet-robed figures on the 
bench, who were conferring together. At last they 
announced that they would retire for a few minutes, 
rose to their feet and disappeared behind the 
curtains at the back. Then ensued a period of 
painful suspense. It lasted for forty-five minutes, 
when the Judges returned, looking very grave. 


One's heart took an extra beat, when one reahsed 
that this might indicate the worst. The prisoner, 
looking even more hvid than before, stood with 
hands clasped behind him and passing his tongue 
spasmodically over his parched lips. 

Lord Hewart began his speech very slowly and 
very quietly, yet he spoke with precision and quite 

"It would not have been at all surprising," he 
said, "if the trial had resulted in an acquittal, for 
the case is one of eminent difficulty and doubt. 
But we are not concerned with suspicion, however 
grave, or with theories, however ingenious. There 
is not so far as we can see any ground for any 
imputation upon the fairness of the police. The 
conclusion at which we have arrived is that the 
case against the appellant, which we have anxiously 
considered and discussed, was not proved with that 
certainty which is necessary in order to justify a 
verdict of guilty. The result will be that the appeal 
will be allowed and this conviction quashed." 

Although half expected, the decision came as 
an extraordinary surprise. Such a thing had not 
happened for twenty years! Only twice had it 
occurred since the Criminal Court of Appeal was 
established. It meant that Wallace was once more 
a free man. The effect upon him of the decision 
was magical. At first he looked bewildered, then 
his face lit up with a smile and he murmured, 
"Splendid!" His brother sat in the well of the 
court, and to him he nodded delightedly, a saluta- 


tion which was heartily reciprocated. Verily this 
man had passed through the valley of the shadow 
of death! Happily very few human beings arc 
called upon to endure such a terrible ordeal. 
There was no demonstration in court, although, 
of course, there was plenty of excitement exhibited 
on all hands. 

About a quarter of an hour later Wallace, 
dressed in a bowler hat and an overcoat and smoking 
a cigarette, emerged from the court and was met 
by a few friends. Among the latter was Mr. E. T. 
Palmer, Labour M.P. for Greenwich and secretary 
of the Trade Union of which Wallace is a member. 
The latter was carrying a small parcel of his 
belongings, and expressed his intention of getting 
a cup of tea. He left in a taxi. But before departing 
he made one or two pregnant observations to 
pressing and anxious inquirers. He said, for instance, 
"I don't think I have any feelings left. I felt a 
little shaky when the Judge started delivering 
judgment. I didn't know what was going to 
happen." And this was the feeling of most people 
who were present in court. 

The defence of Wallace cost a good deal of 
money, more than he was in a position to find 
himself He, however, received valuable assistance 
from the Prudential, his brother, and I believe his 
Union. It was also said that the Prudential were 
keeping his berth open for him. The case was 
mentioned in the House of Commons, the Home 
Secretary being questioned as to the probability of 


Wallace being compensated. The reply was that 
there was no likelihood of this happening, as there 
was no reason for awarding compensation under 
the circumstances. Although it may appear hard 
on the accused, yet one can realise the truth of the 
Home Secretary's assertion. It does not appear to 
come under the heading of " miscarriages of justice ". 
The decision of the Appeal Court merely means 
that, in the opinion of the judges, the evidence 
adduced at the Assize Court did not justify the 
conviction, and therefore the verdict is set aside. 
The position would have been much the same had 
the jury at the Assize Court disagreed. 

Here is an interesting list of "leading dates" in 
this strange case, as published by the News-Chronicle, 
and which presents the story of the case in tabloid, 
as it were: 

Jan. 19 — Message left at club for Mr. W. H. Wallace, to 
meet an unknown man the following night. 

Jan. 20 — Wallace seen in distressed condition during 
afternoon by constable. Mrs. Wallace last seen 
alive at 6.30 p.m. Crime discovered by husband at 
8.30 p.m. Mrs. Wallace's dead body in front room, 
after husband has found message to be a fake. 

Jan. 21 — Search commenced for "Mr. Qual trough", who 
sent the telephone message. 

Jan. 22 — All night search for weapon. 

Jan. 23 — Inquest opened. 

Jan. 24 — Taximan tells of a "highly agitated fare" at 
7 p.m. on the night of the murder. 

Jan. 25 — Burial of victim. 

Feb. 2 — Mr. Wallace arrested and charged with murder. 

Feb. 3 — Declares his innocence to magistrates. 

Feb. 19 — Hearing resumed. 

X ! 


Apl. 22 — Charged at Liverpool Assizes. Wallace pleaded 
"Not guilty". 

Apl. 26 — Found guilty after an hour's consideration by 
jury at close of four days' hearing. Mr. Justice 
Wright said the murder was "unexampled in 
annals of crime". There were no finger prints, 
no sign of forcible entry, no bloodstains, except 
where crime was committed, and no motive. 

Apl. 27 — Wallace goes on hunger strike in cell. 

May I — Breaks his fast. 

May 4 — Fund for appeal raised. 

May 17 — Prayers offered in Liverpool Cathedral for His 
Majesty's Judges of Appeal, and intercession 
service held. 

May 18 — Appeal heard in London. 

May 19 — Wallace free. 

Thus we have one more case added to the already 
long list of so-called "unsolved mysteries". Not 
the least notable of them, one may add. The brutal 
murderer of Mrs. Wallace is an "unknown". We 
know that there are human beings who will kill 
for no particular benefit to themselves, either 
financial or otherwise, but merely for the lust of 
killing. Primitive savages, upon whom civilisation 
has laid but a very thin veneer. We may be sure, 
in the absence of any ordinary motive, that the 
slayer of that unhappy lady, Mrs. Wallace, was 
one of those primordial brutes, both mentally and 
temperamentally, but little removed from the 
Stone Age. We may say that much, although we 
may not be in a position to point definitely to the 
particular individual. Therefore the question as 
to who killed Mrs. Wallace is likely to remain an 
impenetrable secret for all time. 



( The Case of Samuel Fell Wilson^ Warsop, 
September, 1930.) 

While cycling along a lonely road, outside the 
mining village of Warsop, about five miles from 
Mansfield, in the early hours of Tuesday, September 
23rd, 1930, P.C. Holland saw a motor car, without 
lights, drawn up by the roadside. He pulled up and 
made an investigation. He called to the driver, but 
got no reply. He then opened the door at the side 
and found a man seated on the driver's seat dead. 
He had evidently been shot through the head and 

Subsequent inquiry fixed the identity of the dead 
man as Samuel Fell Wilson, a provision merchant 
of Sherwood Road, Warsop. He had left Warsop 
the previous day for Clipstone, a mining village 
four miles away, for the purpose of getting orders 
and collecting money. By an examination of a 
memorandum book which was found in his pocket 
it was ascertained that he had collected well over 
/^20. Only about £6 was found on him. It seemed 
clear then that it was a case of murder for robbery. 

The local police communicated with Scotland 



Yard, and Chief Inspector Berrett, well-known in 
connection with the Kennedy and Brown case, was 
dispatched to take charge of the investigation. He 
had with him as an assistant, Sergeant Harris, and 
the London officers worked in touch with Colonel 
Lemon, Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire and 
Superintendent Neate, in charge of the area where 
the murder was committed. They had frequent 
conferences at Mansfield Police Station. 

The provision shop at Warsop was owned by 
the murdered man's father. Clues of various kinds 
came into possession of the police, and a good deal 
of interviewing was done by them and statements 
taken, as usually happens on such occasions. One 
man whom the police questioned said that he saw 
two flashes in the distance and saw two men 
running across a field near where the murder was 
committed. Another story was connected with a 
man who was seen to hide something under the 
bushes about a quarter of a mile from the spot 
where the car was found. He was seen to pull his 
cap over his eyes, and disappeared into the dark- 
ness. Unfortunately, however, the police failed to 
find any parcel, although they thoroughly searched 
the bushes. 

The scene of the crime was formerly part of 
Sherwood Forest, famous for the legendary exploits 
of bold Robin Hood and his merry men. This fact, 
however, although lending an element of romance 
to the venue, did not assist in clearing up the 
mystery. For mystery it was and still remains. The 


weapon from which the fatal shots were fired was 
never found, ahhough diUgent search was made for 
it by the poHce and their many assistants. They 
even went to the extent of cutting down the under- 
growth around the spot in the hope of finding 
something. The weapon was thought to be a 
double-barrelled gun. One strange feature of the 
crime was that there were but few pellet marks on 
the side of the car, which, by the way, was a motor 

A Mr. Parke, of Warsop, said he cycled past the 
stationary van about 9.40 on the previous night. 
He flashed his lamp on it but saw nobody on the 
driver's seat. 

The shots that killed Mr. Wilson were apparently 
heard by several people, who took little notice of 
them, thinking that they were merely shots fired 
by farmers or poachers. The police theory was 
that the murderer signalled to Mr. Wilson to stop, 
then jumped on the running-board and shot Wilson 
at close quarters while the car was slowing down. 
The second shot was apparently fired in the face 
of Mr. Wilson, who fell from the driving wheel. 
The murderer then hastily took what money he 
could find, switched off the engine, put out the 
lights and made off. Careful examination of the 
hand brake, the door and other parts of the vehicle 
for the appearance of finger-prints was not attended 
with success. The father of the dead man was 
astonished at the crime, as he said that he knew of 
no enemies his son had or of anybody who could 


have done such a terrible thing. "I shall not rest 
until his murderer has been brought to book!" he 

The inquest was opened by Mr. S. G. Warburton 
in the local mission room the following day. 

"I propose to call only formal evidence of 
identification," said Mr. Warburton, "and such 
evidence as is necessary to show the cause of death, 
and then I propose to adjourn the inquest to a 
later date. I think you will have little difficulty in 
finding that this man was brutally murdered." 

In spite of the fact that no finger-prints were 
found on the car. Inspector Cherril and Sergeant 
O'Brien, of Scotland Yard's Finger-print Depart- 
ment, took photographs of some marks which were 
found on the engine-switch, the hand brake and 
the Hght switch. This was done with a view to 
determining whether the murderer or his victim 
put on the brake and stopped the engine. 

It was not an unusual thing for shots to be heard 
about that spot, but since the tragedy, it was said, 
no shots had been heard. The spot where the car 
was found was the quietest part of the road, and 
screened on either side. The murderer was believed 
to be a man who had an intimate knowledge of 
Mr. Wilson's movements. The last people to see 
him alive were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Reynolds, 
of Forest Road, Clipstone. Wilson had been in 
the habit of calling upon them every Monday 
night for the last three or four years. He was 
usually pretty punctual, varying very little — not 


more than a quarter of an hour — in his hour of 
arrival. He was there on the Monday night in 
question, arriving at 8.30. He stayed twenty 
minutes and then said, "I must be going on. I 
have only one call to make, at Mr. White's, the 
ice-cream dealer, and then I shall soon be home 
again." He never reached Mr. White's house. 
About two hundred yards from it he met his death. 
He passed the spot where he was killed about the 
same time he was in the habit of passing, a fact 
which was doubtless known to his assailant, who 
had laid his plans accordingly. 

Mr. Wilson had previously called upon Mr. and 
Mrs. Gould, of Clipstone, and they said he had 
a bag of copper and one of silver, which he was 
in the habit of keeping in the outside pockets of 
his jacket. He was so carrying them on the Monday 

The car was taken to Mansfield Police Station 
and carefully guarded. Microscopical examination 
of the pellets and grains of powder found on the 
side of the car was made. From this it was believed 
that the gun was probably one owned by a poacher. 
The cartridges were what are known as "poacher 
treated". That is to say that a certain number of 
pellets had been extracted from the cartridges. 
There were plenty of poachers about that part, and 
on the night of the murder several of these were 
known to be out. 

Inspector Berrett took a private room in the 
village and there he interviewed many people. 


One man said he saw a car in Forest Road on the 
night of tlie murder about ten o'clock. He himself 
was in a car, and by the light from his own head- 
lamps he saw a man inside the other car, with one 
hand on the wheel, and leaning to the left of the 
car. Tliis must have been Mr. Wilson's car. Mr. 
Wilson was then dead, and the man with his hand 
on the wheel must have been his murderer, 
probably half concealing himself while the other 
car passed. The informant said that there were 
two friends in the car and that everything was all 

Clues, more or less vague, continued to reach 
the police, but unfortunately, they led only to a 
loose end. The proprietors of two inns in the 
district said that they had both changed a Treasury 
note for a customer on the Saturday following the 
crime on which was a bloodstain. Unfortunately 
this discovery led to nothing practical. 

Inspector Berrett, skilful detective as he is, 
was unable to clear up this mystery. Since as 
I have before stated, there is no "statute of 
limitations" in connection with crime investiga- 
tion, the callous and brutal murderer of Mr. 
Wilson may yet be found and punished. It is not 
a very difficult case to define or classify. It was 
clearly murder for robbery, as most murders are 
in some form or other. There is not the slightest 
indication that anybody bore the dead man any 
grudge or had any grievance against him. Some- 
times this does happen and the robbery which 


accompanies the murder is designed to act as a "red 
herring" to lead the poHce off the scent. But in 
this case it was not so. Mr. Wilson was a prosaic 
tradesman, carrying on his business in a successful 
and systematic manner. In fact, it may have been 
his very self-disciplinary habits which suggested 
the crime to the culprit. He must have become 
acquainted with Mr. Wilson's habits, although he 
may himself have been quite unknown to Mr. 
Wilson. He carefully watched him, knew precisely 
how he was in the habit of making calls for the 
purpose of doing business and collecting money, 
which was invariably in cash. He made himself 
familiar with the route usually and faithfully 
followed by his intended victim, planted himself 
in ambush at the most retired and sequestered part 
of that route, and as Mr. Wilson was driving past, 
suddenly appeared and held him up. He may 
have made some sort of excuse for so doing at first, 
asked some commonplace question, and then, 
having got into a favourable position for the com- 
mission of the deed, proceeded to swiftly and effect- 
ively carry it into execution, making a clean 
"get-away" afterwards. 

A murder committed under such circumstances 
invariably offers a difficult problem for police 
solution. The very isolation of it constitutes a serious 
obstacle to free investigation. However, let us hope 
that at long last the murderer of the luckless Mr. 
Wilson may be brought to judgment. 




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